Help for Flint Water Crisis: Chelation Therapy

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Julian Whitaker’s Health & Healing newsletter, copyright Healthy Directions, LLC

SinkBrownWater.jpg

Photo by Kari Haraldsdatter Høglund, ©2016 / 123rf.com

Two years ago, Michigan state officials decided to cut costs by sourcing the City of Flint’s water supply from the Flint River rather than paying to pipe it in from Detroit. A few months later, the water flowing from the faucets in many homes became discolored and smelly, and there were increasing complaints of skin rashes, hair loss, memory problems, aches and pains, and other unexplained symptoms, especially in children.

Despite repeated reassurances that the water met safety standards, residents were concerned.

Lee-Anne Walters, a mother of four, was convinced that the water was making her children sick. Frustrated by the bureaucratic runaround, she had a water sample tested by environmental engineers at Virginia Tech. The lead level was 13,200 parts per billion (ppb), an alarming 880 times the 15 ppb deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – high enough to be classified as hazardous waste!

Further investigation revealed that the highly corrosive Flint River water had damaged the city’s iron and lead pipes and leached these minerals into the water. After more than a year of stonewalling, officials restored the original Detroit water supply. Things are getting better, but five months later, 9 percent of tested sites still exceeded EPA safety limits, and thousands of children, including Lee-Anne’s, have elevated blood levels of lead.

Suffer little children

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that damages the central nervous system and causes growth and developmental delays, learning disabilities, impaired speech and coordination, lower IQ, and behavioral problems such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and violence. Children and unborn babies are particularly vulnerable because of their small size and rapidly growing brains and nervous systems, but no one is immune to this toxin’s devastating effects.

Thanks to the efforts of Lee-Anne Walters and others, the Flint catastrophe has drawn widespread attention and outrage. A state of emergency has been declared, and a Congressional committee investigation is underway. Officials have instituted ongoing water testing and are providing residents with bottled water, filters, and blood tests to determine lead levels.

The federal government has pledged millions of dollars to expand childhood interventions such as Head Start programs, new classrooms, and longer school years on the theory that early education will help kids with learning disabilities caused by lead exposure.

Incredibly, the one thing Flint residents are not being told about, as far as I can tell, is treatment – interventions to reduce elevated lead levels in the body and potentially decrease or prevent long-term damage.

What about chelation therapy?

Chelation therapy has been the gold standard for treating lead poisoning for 70 years. Intravenous or oral chelating compounds such as EDTA, DMSA, or DMPS form a tight chemical bond with lead and other heavy metals and make them water soluble so they can be excreted in the urine. When administered by an experienced physician, chelation is a safe, effective, FDA-approved treatment – and is universally acknowledged as the only way to remove toxic heavy metals from the body.

Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends treatment to reduce lead only when a child’s blood level is over 44 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL), which is life-threateningly high. At the same time, the agency states that levels as low as 5 mcg/dL are cause for concern. This makes no sense.

The EPA states"

“Research shows that blood lead levels of 10 mcg/dL... in young children can result in lowered intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, and antisocial behavior.

However, there currently is no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood, and adverse health effects can occur at lower concentrations. If caught early, these effects can be limited by reducing exposure to lead or through medical treatment.”

It’s one thing to offer educational and interventional services to help lead-damaged children deal with lower IQs and behavioral problems. Eliminating the need for such services by removing lead with chelation therapy and giving kids a shot at normal development is another thing altogether.

Failing to offer medical treatment, or at least inform patients and parents about chelation, is simply unconscionable.

Beyond Flint

The tragic consequences of lead toxicity extend far beyond Flint, Michigan. According to a recent investigation by USA Today journalists, unsafe levels of lead have been found in nearly 2,000 communities across the country – and many of the most dangerous levels have been found in schools and day care centers.

To make matters worse, unlike most pollutants, lead does not break down over time. Although bans have been in place for decades, lead-based paint is still found in many old buildings, and much of the 7 million tons burned in leaded gasoline over 60 years remains in the soil that we grow our food in, walk and play on, and track into our homes.

Millions of Americans, including including half a million children ages 1-5, have blood lead levels high enough to damage their health. The number affected is actually much higher. Lead moves in and out of the brain, kidneys, liver, lungs, and other soft tissues, and 90-95 percent ends up in the bones. Therefore, blood tests measure only recent exposure and are not indicative of the true toxic burden.

Toxicity can also occur long after exposure has ended. Most adults have significant lead stores in our bones – stores that may be mobilized as bone is lost with age, menopause, pregnancy and lactation, hyperthyroidism, chronic disease, and calcium deficiency. In addition to its neurological effects, lead damages tissues and organs throughout the body and is associated with hypertension, heart and vascular disease, kidney dysfunction, gastrointestinal illness, mood and memory disorders, infertility, and miscarriages.

At Whitaker Wellness, we measure our patients’ heavy metal burden, and if it’s high, treat them with chelation, the only therapy capable of mobilizing and eliminating lead. This remarkable therapy effectively reduces angina, lowers blood pressure, enhances circulation, helps heal diabetic ulcers, and improves kidney function.

The right to be informed

I consider it the obligation of medical professionals to inform patients of all treatment options. My thoughts keep returning to Lee-Anne Walters, the take-charge mother who was instrumental in drawing attention to the Flint crisis.

She’s concerned about brain development, cognitive deficits, and other lead-induced problems in all of her kids but especially five-year-old Gavin, who has developed speech problems, has a poor appetite, sleeps a lot, and weighs just 35 pounds compared to his twin brother’s 53 pounds. Surely Lee-Anne, of all people, deserves to be told about a therapy that could help.

Recommendations

  • Visit flintwaterstudy.org to learn more about the dangers of lead and the Flint fiasco.
  • For information on chelation therapy, including physician referrals, visit acam.org.
  • To schedule testing and treatment at Whitaker Wellness, call 800-488-1500.
  • Lead is one of many impurities found in tap water. I strongly recommend filtering your home’s drinking water. Visit nsf.org or wqa.org to learn more.

References

Lead poisoning: number one environmental health threat to children ages six and younger in the US. Environmental Protection Agency News Release. 2011 Oct 25.

Lurie J. Meet the mom who helped expose Flint’s toxic water nightmare. 2016 Jan 21. Mother Jones.

Young A, et al. Beyond Flint: high lead levels found in 2,000 water systems across USA. USA Today. 2016 Mar 17.

About the Author