Chelation (also known as detoxification or detox) is a medical procedure used to remove heavy metals like mercury or lead from the body.
Chelation involves using one or more 'chelators' (chemicals such as DMSA, DMPS and EDTA) to remove the metals from the body.
The chelators may be given orally, by intravenous infusion, or in the form of nasal sprays, suppositories or creams. Once in the body, they are designed to ‘bind’ to the metals, allowing them to be flushed out of the body through your urine.
Some people think that the core features of autism and other problems faced by people on the autism spectrum (such as poor strength and coordination) are caused by, or made worse, by the presence of heavy metals.
They also think that chelation can be used to prevent or reduce those core features and those other problems.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) made the following recommendations:
'Do not use chelation for the management of core symptoms of autism in adults.' (NICE, 2012)
'Do not use [chelation] to manage autism in any context in children and young people' (NICE, 2013)
There is no high quality research evidence to show that heavy metals (such as lead or mercury) cause autism or any of problems faced by people on the autism spectrum.
There is no high quality research evidence to suggest that chelators (such as DMSA, DMPS or EDTA) prevent or reduce the core features of autism in people on the autism spectrum.
There is no high quality research evidence to suggest that chelators (such as DMSA, DMPS or EDTA) prevent or reduce any of the problems faced by people on the autism spectrum.
There is mixed research evidence on the benefits of N-Acetyl-L-cysteine which is sometimes used as a chelator. However there is no evidence to suggest that any benefits which may or may not have arisen from the use of N-Acetyl-L-cysteine were due to the effects of removing heavy metals.
There is some high quality research evidence which suggests that some chelators are potentially extremely hazardous.
For these reasons, we strongly recommend that chelation is not used as an intervention for people on the autism spectrum.
Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions