A new study finds chelation, a process which removes heavy metals from the body, does not eliminate or reduce autism symptoms. The process of chelation is typically used to treat mercury or lead poisoning. Patients are given injections of a chemical that binds to heavy metals and is excreted through urine.
Chelation gained momentum as an alternative treatment for autism from the theory that mercury from vaccines causes children to develop autism. The procedure does include risks of kidney damage and gastrointestinal problems.
Tonya Davis, the lead researcher, told Reuters that the goal of the study was not to tell parents which treatments they should or should not us for their children. She said:
“I see that they want to try everything, and they are well intentioned. But there are risks involved with any treatment choice, and some of those risks are very serious. So far science does not support (chelation) as being an effective treatment, and that’s a big risk to take when you have limited resources and limited time.”
The researchers found five studies that tested the chelation procedure of children ages three to 14. Davis and her colleagues used five studies that tested the effects of chelation in kids with autism. Those studies each had between one and 41 children, from age three to 14. Then, they asked parents to fill out questionnaires and used tests and reports to see if symptoms had changed according to Yahoo News. Only one study with one four-year-old child found chelation had a positive affect based on a parent report. The other four studies showed mixed results. The researchers noted that none of the studies showed that the improvements were due to only chelation and not additional treatments or simply the child aging.
Dr Joyc Mauk, the head of the Child Study Center told Reuters:
“There’s really no evidence that mercury causes autism or has a place in causing autism, and also we know that chelation can be dangerous as well. Even the underlying theories don’t make sense. Most children with developmental disabilities, what gets them better is a really skilled therapist and lots of work.”