Autism is one of those conditions that have gathered together a lot of snake oil salesmen to peddle their wares at the detriment of the recipient. And the FDA has finally said they have had enough.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the FDA is now cracking down on over the counter chelators that are being sold as "nutritional supplements" and cures for autism. The Tribune has been running quite a few stories on chelation and autism, and this story shows the power of awareness and how it sets investigations in process. 8 chelator vendors were contacted by the FDA on top of the OSR#1 investigation, all notified that their products were in violation of Federal Law. Apparently chelators were being peddled as not only cures for Autism, but also heart disease.
As reported by the Tribune, some peddlers claimed the FDA was "stupid", as they did not consider the drug as it was peddled to be dangerous, or so claimed Ron Partain, a pharmacist from Palm Desert, California. Richard Brooks, of Hormonal Health in San Bernardino, California, also claimed "the products are safe." Others either said they were not contacted, or declined to comment to the Tribune.
So who is right? The FDA, or the peddlers? Let's look at the facts. Chelation, as defined by the Princeton WordNet Search, is "the process of removing a heavy metal from the bloodstream by means of a chelate as in treating lead or mercury poisoning." Chelates , according to Wikipedia, form bonds around the heavy metals, deactivating the ions so the metals cannot react with other molecules, and makes it easier to pass the heavy metal out of the body.
The problem is, if someone is treated with a chelate without an actual need, it can cause death. The human body needs certain trace amounts of heavy metals to function, which we ideally get through our diet. Should these metals get purged through unnecessary chelation, critical bodily functions can shut down causing death. That alone should warrant caution.
But we still have the question, should we trust the Government, or trust Business? In the US we have little trust of either, because both have within recent history (within the past 50 years, and from both Political Parties I might add) been prone to misdirection in one form or another.
Personally (authors opinion follows), I feel that the Government has less interest in forming a conspiracy to "cause" children to develop autism, as it can become quite a burden on Federal and State agencies. Business, on the other hand, particularly those with little understanding of what they are peddling, are more prone to justify products as safe when it brings significant profitability.
But I prefer to take both interests into account, and instead look to the Science. Clinical evidence points to genetic causes for Autism, not environmental causes. Therefore a drug that is designed to remove environmental contaminants is inappropriate for such a condition. As such, whether you believe chelation is safe for consumption is irrelevant, as the condition does not warrant the treatment.
Still, anything that keeps these wrongfully targeted "supplements" out of the stores and away from vulnerable patients or parents of patients is welcome.