Detox as a biomedical intervention for Autism,  Asperger's syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Disorders


In recent years, it has been suggested that thimerosal in some childhood vaccines could contribute to, or cause, a range of neurodevelopmental disorders in children, most notably Autism, Asperger's syndrome and related Pervasive Developmental Disorders, and also Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Critics of thimerosal-containing vaccines argue that the ethyl mercury-based preservative may cause serious side effects, especially when administered to young children who have relatively undeveloped immune and neurological systems that may be seriously affected. There has been heated debate over the research involved in this area and rigorous research has not established evidence-based proof for heavy metals causing Autism, or for chelation as a viable treatment.


What is chelation therapy?

Chelation therapy is a process involving the use of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body. For the most common forms of heavy metal intoxication, those involving lead, arsenic or mercury, the standard of care in the USA dictates the use of DMSA. This, in addition to other chelating agents such as DMPS and alpha lipoic acid (ALA), are used in conventional and alternative medicine.


Based on the speculation that heavy metal poisoning may trigger the symptoms of Autism, particularly in small subsets of individuals who cannot excrete toxins effectively, some parents have turned to alternative medicine practitioners who provide detoxification treatments, via chelation therapy, as a treatment method. Rigorous research has not established chelation therapy as an evidence-based treatment for Autism.


Side effects and safety concerns

Side effects of chelation therapy can include headaches, skin irritation, nausea or stomach upset, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, cramps, joint pain, feeling like fainting, and in rare cases, fever or kidney toxicity. In August 2005, an autistic boy went into cardiac arrest fifty minutes after an infusion of acidic Endrate and died with hypocalcemia. The initial coroner's report ruled the death accidental. Dr. Mary Jean Brown, chief of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the child died because he was given the wrong chelation agent: disodium EDTA instead of calcium disodium EDTA.


Debate over link between immunizations and Autism

Chelation treatments can involved DMSA, lipoic acid, clay baths and natural chelating agents. There are no published peer review publications regarding the effectiveness of chelation for the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders. A link with immunizations was suggested as the effects of Autism Spectrum Disorders often become apparent around the same time as immunizations typically occur, although no valid research has indicated any link. It is important to note that the live virus vaccines like the trivalent measles, mumps, rubella vaccine do not contain thimerosal. Thimerosal is no longer present in childhood vaccines except in the DT influenza vaccine. Furthermore, there is strong epidemiological evidence that refutes links between environmental triggers, in particular thimerosal containing vaccines, and the onset of autistic symptoms.


Thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in Denmark in 1992. The incidence of reported Autism began increasing before thimerosal was removed from the childhood vaccines and this increase continued after the removal of thimerosal. No associations were identified and causality could not be implied. In the case of documented lead poisoning with neurological complications, chelation of the lead has not been shown to improve neurological function. Renal and hepatic toxicity must be monitored with DSMA chelation. Due to the lack of evidence and the potential significant harm and toxicity, this intervention should be viewed with extreme caution.


Click here to read more about the thimerosal controversy.


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This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation. It is derivative of an Autism and Asperger's syndrome-related articles at

Chelation therapy is a process involving the use of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body as an alternative approach to Autism treatments