Chelation study to be 'released'?

9 Jul

AP print an even-handed account of the current state of a Chelation study. This study which was approved and then put on hold:

….for safety concerns after an animal study, published last year, linked DMSA to lasting brain problems in rats.

I’m really torn about this study. On one hand, it would put to rest once and for all the issue of whether chelation benefits autistic children (except it won’t. When it finds chelation does nothing it will simply be attacked as crap by the anti-vaccine/autism groups). On the other hand, it will mean putting a whole load of kids at risk for no purpose whatsoever.

“I don’t really know why we have to do this in helpless children,” said Ellen Silbergeld of Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was invited to comment on the study to a review board of the national institute.


Lets be clear. This study is being touted about for one reason and one reason only – to appease the anti-vaccine/autism groups. In the mainstream medical/scientific community (and notably in the toxicology community) it is well known that autistic kids aren’t toxic. Here is a few snippets from the testimony of Dr Jeffery Brent – a sub-specialty board certified medical toxicologist. He is an active member of the medical school teaching faculty and is an attending physician on the clinical pharmacology/toxicology consultation service at the University Hospital. Currently he holds the rank of Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver. Dr. Brent has a long list of publications, virtually all related to clinical toxicology. He is senior editor of Critical Care Toxicology: The Diagnosis and Management of the Critically Poisoned Patient and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Toxicological Reviews, a major international state-of-the-art review journal devoted to human toxicology.

Q: Dr Mumper discussed today some key aspects of chelation therapy….as a medical toxicologist do you see any reason for the chelation to remove mercury from either Jordan King or William Mead in these cases?

A: Absolutely not….there is no test in medicine that is more valid for for assessing mercury toxicity than an unprovoked urine mercury concentration.

[For Jordan King and William Mead]…their unprovoked urine concentration is exactly in the normal range.

On the other hand, they have been chelated. And the justification for that chelation with regard to mercury comes from what you see in the right hand column where in both cases, 4 out of 5 provoked examples have been…uh…increase urine mercury. Well, you’re supposed to have increased urine mercury with provoked examples! Therefore there is absolutely no indication based here or anywhere else I saw in the medical records that suggest that there is any mercury effect in these children and therefore that was absolutely no reason to chelate them for any mercury related reason.

The standard way of chelating autistic kids is to do a provoked challenge test. As Dr Brent says – you’re _supposed_ to have increased levels with provoked examples.

Q: There’s nothing here that would be out of the ordinary – from your experience – absent, even in the absence of a standard reference range.

A: Well, in truth we don’t (?) urine/leads because the ‘gold test’ is blood/lead so I haven’t looked at many urine/leads in children that I have chelated. So I can’t speak to that in my experience. But I have seen a number of patients now come to me because of these ‘doctor’s data’ type of laboratories which are based on urines – chelated urines – and they always have high leads in their chelated urines and I tell them ‘well, lets just do the gold standard test, lets get a blood/lead level and so far, 100% of the time they’ve been normal.

So basically, when you do the provoked, non-standard tests from labs that make a good living from charging for these tests, they come back positive. When experts like Dr Brent do the gold standard tests, 100% of the time they come back normal.

*There is no reason to chelate autistic children* .

And here in this report is part of the problem. There seems to be a type of scientist who wants to short-circuit the scientific process:

Insel said he has come to believe after listening to parents that traditional scientific research, building incrementally on animal studies and published papers, wasn’t answering questions fast enough.

Well, boo-hoo. Its slow for a reason. Its slow to be as accurate as possible and to be as safe for humans as possible. Insel needs to remember that his patients – his duty of care – is not to parents, but to the autistic people in his case load.

And one more thing….in this piece, Jenny McCarthy says:

Actress Jenny McCarthy, whose bestseller “Louder Than Words” details her search for treatments for her autistic son, Evan, told thousands of parents at a recent autism conference outside Chicago that she plans to try chelation on him this summer.

I thought Evan McCarthy was recovered? Surely Jenny McCarthy isn’t – can’t be – wrong?

8 Responses to “Chelation study to be 'released'?”

  1. Jennifer July 9, 2008 at 15:13 #

    Thanks for this. You didn’t mention the series of studies that looked at children with real, moderately high, blood levels of lead (20 and 44 microg/dL). Those children were treated with DMSA chelation, and while their lead levels dropped faster than untreated children, their cognitive performance did not improve more than the placebo group. Indeed, there was some evidence that chelation could impair cognition. And as a consequence, it is no longer recommended that children with these moderate levels of lead in their blood be treated by chelation.

    Of course, children with autism do not have high levels of mercury in their blood. So, the rationale for treatment is very skimpy indeed.

  2. Sharon July 9, 2008 at 17:37 #

    It’s hard to understand how someone in Dr Insel’s position could make such statements. Doesn’t he think autistic children deserve ethical treatment, and not to be treated as guinea pigs?

    I sounded off about this stuff a minute ago.

  3. Joseph July 9, 2008 at 17:47 #

    There is no reason to chelate autistic children.

    I’d put that a different way. There’s no more reason to chelate an autistic child than there is to chelate a non-autistic child. Presumably, both autistic and non-autistic children do become heavy-metal poisoned occasionally.

  4. María Luján July 9, 2008 at 17:54 #

    Joseph, Jennifer and Kev It is not so simple

    Much more research is needed on transport and metabolism and excretion, especially in autistic chidren/teens and adults and how protein restriction impacts toxic elements management. At the present situation the experts on the classical toxicology- that apply concepts of acute poisoning- and some proponents of the rush to diagnose toxic elements accumulation- without the care and the needed research/proper testing because it is a topic of ongoing research-are not helping a bit- and did not in my personal experience. However, people like Dr Insel did.

  5. Ms. Clark July 9, 2008 at 22:37 #

    Dr Brent was answering a question from one of the Special Masters. I hope Kev doesn’t object to me being pedantic… I’m going add to his transcription a couple of words I heard: “Dr. Brent: Well, I’d have to, in truth, we don’t follow urine/leads because the correct test is blood/lead so I haven’t looked at many urine/leads in children that I have chelated. So I can’t speak to that in my experience. But I have seen a number of patients now come to me because of these ‘doctor’s data’ type of laboratories which are based on urines – chelated urines – and they always have high leads in their chelated urines and I tell them ‘well, lets just do the gold standard test, lets get a blood/lead level and so far, 100% of the time they’ve been normal.

    SM: Let’s get back to mercury then. Are the post chelation mercury levels in either of these two boys in excess of what you would see or in excess of … I take it that there’s no reference range…

    Brent: No standard reference range, you do tend to see small increases, they’ve had some minor increases in their mercury excretion over the reference range for the nonprovoked, it’s certainly not very dramatic. And it’s certainly well within the range that you wuld expect to see. …”

  6. Kev July 9, 2008 at 23:00 #

    Not at all – the more accurate the better. I just wish Insel might’ve listened:/

  7. Ms. Clark July 9, 2008 at 23:38 #

    blech. t.insel wouldn’t dare talk about children with Tourette or anxiety disorder or Down syndrome the way he talks about autistic children. He’s been totally co-opted by the likes of Jon “My kid’s an empty shell” Shestack and Lyndelle “My kid was viciously poisoned and cruelly obliterated in a desperate case of toxic PDD,NOS” Redwood.


  1. Newsweek Article Highlights Chelation Study - Mutterings Of A Mindless Mommy - July 9, 2008

    […] Kevin Leitch of the UK-based blog Left Brain Right Brain wrote on the same topic today – check out his take on things: Chelation study to be ‘released’? […]

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