Chelation therapy is treatment process where an agent is given to scavenge the body for heavy metals such as mercury, lead, aluminum and arsenic. It is felt by many that one of the paths that leads a child towards the symptoms of autism is an exposure to toxins such as heavy metals at a critical point in his/her development. Some children may be genetically predisposed to a decreased ability to detoxify (such as those with MTHFR mutations), but any child will suffer neurological damage if exposed to high enough levels of heavy metals.
An interesting observation of many physicians who are versed in biological therapies is that over the last 15 years, there has been an increase in the identification of lead and a decrease in the identification of mercury in the urine of children with autism following a dose of chelation therapy (discussed further below). Possible explanations for the decrease in the presence of mercury include the move away from mercury containing thermometers, awareness of the mercury in fish (that pregnant women are now warned against) and the removal of thimerosal/mercury from the routine vaccines that are given to children (as can be see HERE, which is the list of vaccines that contained mercury in a given year).
In 2001, the Autism Research Institute commissioned the writing of a consensus paper that mainly discussed the use of DMSA for the treatment of mercury.
In 2005, ARI commissioned an updated consensus paper, which can be found here. Dosing regimens for both testing and treatment of heavy metals with DMSA, DMPS and CaNa2 EDTA are discussed in the 2005 paper, while the original 2001 paper detailed more about the supporting supplements that are to be used as a part of the overall treatment plan.
Although many mainstream “authorities” will only suggest chelation therapy as an active treatment if a heavy metal level is extremely high in the blood (which is the only way that they determine “toxicity”) and will often just look to minimize the exposure by identifying the source, many more progressive physicians recognize that the longer these toxins are in the body, the more damage that they will cause. Bottom line: There is no safe amount of mercury or lead in the body, and all efforts should be made to both minimize exposure and to remove these toxins as fast as possible.
Short of doing biopsies of a child’s brain, bone, liver, etc (which we are not advocating for!), there is no perfect way to identify the presence of heavy metals in the body. A blood test, if positive, is certainly one way, but a negative blood test only says that the tested metal is not in the blood. It tells nothing about the presence in the organs. The power of performing a single dose chelation challenge test, (where a urine is collected at baseline, a dose of chelation is given, and another urine collection is performed after the chelation dose) is that if metals are seen in the urine following the chelation dose but not before, it shows 1) the patient truly had the metal in their body (as the urine is a filter of the blood, which is not the case for fecal testing) 2) that the patient was not excreting the metal on his/her own (as evidenced by the negative “pre” test), and that the chelation agent, given that particular way, works to remove the metal from the body.
An interesting observation made by physicians who work with children undergoing chelation is that there is no single chelating agent or route of administration that is superior. One patient may show the most excretion with DMPS, while the next person will excrete more with DMSA or CaNa2EDTA. And one person may excrete more metal using oral chelation, and another may excrete more using suppositories, even when using the same agent and the same dose. Often a series of challenges is performed with different agents and routes, and the one that is chosen for ongoing detoxification therapy is the one that brings the most metal excretion with the least (if any) side effects.
When chelation therapy is performed, most physicians will treat for about 2-3 months and then repeat the challenge test to see how much residual metal exists. Based on this follow up testing, the treatment protocol may be altered. While in an ideal world there would be no metal left in the body, that may not be realistic. Most experienced treating physicians will set as a goal to get the urinary excretion to the middle of the acceptable reference range established by the laboratory.
DISCLAIMER: Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) provides general information regarding medical research, treatment options, therapies and nutrition to the autism community. The information comes from a variety of sources, and TACA does not independently verify any of it. Nothing on this website/document should be construed as medical advice. Always consult your child's doctor regarding his or her individual needs.