Many parents have tried the controversial treatment known as chelation, which is a method of precipitating metals from the body. Long used to treat lead poisoning, chelation is more controversial for mercury, with some doctors suggesting that it could do more harm than good. The issue has come up with regards to mercury leaking from amalgam fillings, as well as the long-standing argument over whether mercury in vaccines may lead to childhood autism. (Most Western doctors think that's unlikely, though many advocates still believe).
Now, the Associated Press reports that so much pressure from parents and advocacy groups has forced the National Institute of Mental Health to take a closer look at chelation as a possible treatment for autism. The AP quotes a number of prominent physicians who say they believe directly studying the issue in children would be unethical, given the controversial nature of chelation for mercury.
But, the feds point out that an estimated 3,000 autistic children are already getting the treatment at any time in the United States, meaning they have a responsibility to try to assess if the procedure is safe, and if it indeed may have potential in addressing the disease.
Chelation has been blamed for a few child deaths (allegedly because of doctor error), and the chelation drug DMSA is known to have side effects, including lowering white blood counts and causing rashes. After tests on rats revealed DMSA caused brain problems, the feds' proposed blind study of chelation in autistic children was put on hold.
Given that development, it is unclear how health agencies will proceed with studying chelation. But given the prevalence of the treatment and high degree of interest in it, it stands to reason that parents need answers.
If some in the medical establishment get their way and successfully sweep the treatment under the rug without adequate study, then it will likely drive desperate parents to even less safe procedures, and will serve to further widen the gap between mainstream medicine and those who believe that sector doesn't adequately meet their needs.
For her part, Jenny McCarthy says she plants to try chelation with her autistic son soon.
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