Chelation therapy

From Academic Kids

Chelation therapy is a process involving the use of chelating agents such as EDTA to remove heavy metals from the body.


Discovery in medicine

Chelating agents were introduced into medicine as a result of the use of poison gas in World War I. The first widely used chelating agent was called British Anti-Lewisite, or BAL, a name given to dimercaprol. It is an organic compound related to the mercaptans, which are a class of sulfur-containing organic compounds. The name comes from their ability to react and form compounds with, or "capture," mercury. Lewisite gas was an arsenic based organic compound used in gas warfare; BAL bound the arsenic compounds from lewisite in the body and enabled it to be excreted harmlessly.

After the metal capturing effects of BAL, a group of chelating agents was discovered. The chelating agents proper bind with metallic ions so that the ion is held by several chemical bonds, thus rendering it much less chemically reactive and allowing the ion to be excreted harmlessly.

Uses in conventional medicine

Chelation therapy is used as a treatment for acute mercury, arsenic, lead, plutonium and other forms of heavy metal poisoning, where the amounts are so high that there is enough risk to the health of the patient to justify the therapy. Common chelating agents include desfuroxamine mesylate, DMSA, D-penicillamine, dimercaprol (BAL), and calcium disodium versante (CaNa2-EDTA). The choice of chelating agent depends on which metal is involved. The chelating agent may be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or orally, depending on the agent and the type of poisoning.

Chelation therapy and alternative medicine

Chelation agents are also sometimes used by alternative practitioners to treat conditions they believe to be caused by heavy metal poisoning, including autism and coronary artery disease. Its use by practitioners of alternative medicine is considered to be quackery by virtually all mainstream medical and scientific professionals.

The American College for Advancement in Medicine, which supports the use of chelation therapy, claims that 800,000 patient visits for chelation therapy, with an average of 40 visits per patient, were made in the United States in 1997 [1] ( That is about 0.007% of the total US population. They claim that by 2001 that the number of people who have undergone chelation therapy equaled the number of people having had bypass surgery. A May 2004 survey by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) estimated that 0.1%, plus or minus 0.02% of the adult US population had used chelation therapy at some point in their life.

Calcium chelation therapy

Some alternative practitioners use chelation to treat hardening of the arteries. The safety and efficacy of EDTA chelation therapy as a treatment for coronary artery disease are being assessed by NCCAM in a five-year study which began in 2002. [2] (

The original theory behind calcium chelation therapy was that EDTA forms a complex with the calcium in the walls of arteries. One problem with this theory is that EDTA cannot penetrate the cell walls in the arteries and therefore cannot get access to the calcium. Another is that it binds preferentially to other metals.

A number of dangers have been associated with the therapy including hypocalcaemia and decreased blood coagulation ability (possibly due to loss of calcium). Also associated with this practice is the risk of leaching of necessary trace metals.

External links

  • ( - 'Chelation Therapy Revolution' (describes use of EDTA as a chelating agent, 1999)
  • ( - Generation Rescue: 'Empowering parents with the truth to help their children heal' (parent-led advocacy group promoting use of chelation therapy as a cure for autism)
  • ( - 'The Age of Autism: Heavy metal', Dan Olmsted, Science Daily (May 24, 2005)
  • ( - International Detoxification and Chelation Clinic
  • ( - 'Quack Therapies: Chelation Therapy' (discusses use of chelation therapy in conventional medicine and alleged hazards of chelation therapy by alternative practitioners)

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