Description: A treatment that aims at lowering the levels of mercury, lead, or other heavy metals, in one’s body. The participant takes medication every other week or on some regular schedule until the urine levels are reported to stabilize. Then, the participant takes lipoic acid which chelates the metal that is tightly bound to the cells.

Research Summary: One study found no statistically significant behavioral benefit from chelation therapy (Adams et al., 2009). It is doubtful that individuals with autism spectrum disorders have high levels of heavy metals or that chelating agents would be effective in reversing neurological damage from metal exposure (Levy & Hyman, 2005). Some forms of chelation therapy may cause severe side effects or even death (Kane, 2006). Thus, this therapy appears implausible and unacceptably risky; as such, it is an inappropriate treatment for autism spectrum disorders.

Recommendations: Chelation therapy is not recommended as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders.

Selected References

Selected report of side-effects:

Kane, K. (2006, Jan. 6). Death of 5-year-old boy linked to controversial chelation therapy. Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved January 30, 2006

Systematic reviews of scientific studies:

James S., Stevenson S. W., Silove N., Williams K. (2015). Chelation for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 5. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010766.pub2

Levy, S. E., & Hyman, S. L. (2005). Novel treatments for autistic spectrum disorders. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 11, 131-142.

Selected scientific study:

Adams, J. B., Baral, B., Geis, E., Mitchell, J., Ingram, J., Hensley, A., et al. (2009). Safety and efficacy of oral DMSA therapy: Part B—Behavioral results. BMC Clinical Pharmacology, 9. doi:10.1186/1472-6904-9-17

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