(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — EDITORIAL: As the largely minority, impoverished population of Flint, Michigan continues to reel from Governor Rick Snyder’s lead-poisoning scandal (yes Snyder needs to own it fully), we, at EnviroNews, have heard over and over in the beltway media, slogans uttered again and again by journalists such as, “irreversible harm,” “lifelong effects,” and “permanent damage,” in regards to the helpless, victimized, lead-poisoned children of Flint. But we’ve heard little in the news about what could be done to help these children medically, or to mitigate the damage as much as possible. Again, the media focuses exclusively on the sad drama and fails to disseminate useful information to the public.
MAINSTREAM MEDIA FAILS FLINT IN ITS REPORTING
Because the mainstream media has failed so miserably to this point in harboring any dialog discussing what the citizens of Flint can do to protect themselves and their children, we have done our best to impart an overview, addressing that very subject, as part of this editorial.
While it is true, harm caused from lead-poisoning can be permanent and irreversible, what is also true is that lead’s debilitating repercussions are often unleashed over a long period of time, as the heavy metal lodges itself in various tissues, including bone and tooth, where it can remain for a decade or more, contributing to continuous cognitive decline, and perpetuating myriad adverse health effects culminating with cancer, full-blown mental illness, learning disabilities, or other internal organ disease. In other words, the longer lead remains lodged in tissues, the more damage it will unleash over time.
Unlike many elements including zinc, magnesium or copper, lead is a substance not required or utilized by the body in any way — and according to the CDC, there is no “safe” quantity to ingest or inhale. CDC’s website states, “No safe blood lead level has been identified. For infants and young children, lead levels of 10 micrograms or more in a deciliter of blood are levels of concern and can damage ability to learn.”
That sounds pretty scary, and like people should be trying anything possible to get lead out of their systems — as fast as possible — that is, if a sound effective method exists to do so.
So, is there anything that can be done to get the lead out of Flint’s children? Is there a glimmer of light at all, in this dark and otherwise treacherous tale? At EnviroNews, we believe there just might be — but we leave that for the residents of Flint to decide after digesting this editorial. Sadly, the mainstream media in its reporting, has scarcely uttered a peep or engaged any dialog about how the already lead-poisoned population of Flint, might possibly protect itself from the debilitating damage lead can unfurl over time.
CONVENTIONAL CHELATION THERAPY USING EDTA — WHAT IS IT?
Chelation therapy using Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) is a long-standing, proven treatment for lead-poisoning approved by the FDA on July 16, 1953. The technique involves administering substances such as minerals or water-soluble acids, that can in turn, attract and bond with ionic particles, like lead, inside the body.
EDTA is a synthetic amino acid carrying a hexadentate, or “six-tooth” molecular structure and a negative charge. Lead has a positive charge hence, the two substances are attracted to one another — and EDTA’s molecule, as mentioned above, has six potential bonding sites where positively-charged lead ions can be trapped. Even for industrial purposes, EDTA has been used for decades to sequester and remove metal ions and impurities. In the human body, it works much the same.
In cases of acute, high blood-level lead-poisoning, EDTA or DMSA (Dimercaptosuccinic acid), another non-toxic, water-soluble FDA-approved acid, are traditionally administered intravenously — but oral ingestion of EDTA is also considered effective by many health practitioners.
Intravenous treatments, while faster and more direct in life threatening situations, may also pose more risk. Ongoing oral administrations of EDTA are often recommended by alternative practitioners, in an effort to detoxify the body more gently over a longer period of time.
The most common side effect from intravenous EDTA chelation therapy is a slight burning sensation at the injection site. Other rare, but more serious adverse effects are listed as nausea, fever, headache and sudden lowered blood-pressure. According to the FDA, 11 deaths were reported via intravenous injections of EDTA from 1971-2007.
Like many other powerful treatments, taking chelation therapy to the max may not be without side effects or risks, and we are in no way advocating Flint residents start rushing to hospitals in hopes of receiving full-blast intravenous EDTA treatments. It is our feeling however, that residents, and especially parents in Flint, should have the available data — both from the conventional and alternative medical fields — as to make their own informed health decisions.
ZEOLITES AND OTHER ‘ALTERNATIVE’ CHELATION THERAPIES
EDTA isn’t the only substance administered to quell lead’s potentially catastrophic effects — there are several other products deployed for this purpose — though in our opinion, more research is warranted, and in some cases needed, in these areas.
Bentonite and zeolite are also said to dislodge and chelate lead, radioactive isotopes, and other heavy metals — trapping and clumping the substances, allowing them to move more readily into the body’s channels of elimination. However, these products are not without controversy, and it is safe to say more testing needs to be done.
Bentonite clay was used to detoxify cattle and cow’s milk after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, and bentonite candy bars were administered to children who had inhaled or ingested radioactive particles.
Zeolites, especially in liquid form, are thought to be even more effective than bentonite for chelation and detoxification. While many tout the substance as being the greatest chelator of all, others say the product in and of itself can carry high levels of lead or aluminum.
Similar to EDTA, zeolites carry a negative charge and a complex “cage-like” or “honeycomb” molecular structure with many bonding sites. Negatively charged minerals are extremely rare in nature and can have a powerful, magnet-like attraction toward positively charged ionic minerals like lead, mercury, iron, arsenic, and many others.
Zeolites, and more specifically a mineral called clinoptilolite, has a track-record of bonding with lead, radioactive isotopes, and other poisonous heavy metals — in humans, animals and even water supplies. The substance has been used to filter radioactive water in the ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, where Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) installed an underground wall of zeolite and apatite in an effort to keep radioactive strontium 90 from leaching into the sea.
While there is strong evidence demonstrating zeolite’s ability to bond with heavy metals outside the body, it’s inside the body where the data begins to get foggy — frankly, the information is all over the board on zeolites. While many swear the product is the most powerful detoxifying agent on the planet, others say the results are not proven, and that taking the wrong zeolite can actually increase the body’s metal toxicity.
Zeolites and bentonite, though praised for their ability to bond with and chelate metals, must also be examined for purity. Just as these minerals can link with metals inside the body, they can also combine with them in the environment — before being mined and packaged for consumption by humans. While zeolites have shown a remarkable ability to latch onto metals, it would also appear more research is warranted on how they behave inside the body. When considering zeolites, it seems imperative to locate a high quality source, low in aluminum and other dangerous metals.
Lastly, certain chlorophyll-rich herbs like parsley and cilantro are also said to have a noticeable chelating action on heavy metals in the body, and many health publications are advertising these two foods for heavy metal detox regimens.
While there is some research suggesting these herbs can chelate heavy metals, there is other research indicating both plants are also strong phytoremediators — meaning while they can gather up metals inside your body, they can also uptake heavy metals from polluted soil. Sadly, much of America’s farmland is laden with high concentrations of heavy metals, making the use of cilantro and parsley questionable for detox therapies. Of course if a person were able to grow these herbs organically, in tested, contamination-free soil — they would be presumably safe to consume in high quantities for detox therapy. Without lab testing, one can never be certain, what has been phytoremediated by herbs or vegetables.
A LITTLE MORE HISTORY ON EDTA
Zeolites and other chlorophyll-based chelation treatments may still be surrounded by a fog as to the potential risks and rewards — with EDTA on the other hand, there is more data to examine — data extracted from human subjects no less. It is administered much less frequently these days than in decades past, as society has now learned of the dangers of lead-poisoning and removed the element from gasoline and paint. Still, EDTA has a tested history in humans.
Chelation therapy was discovered when EDTA was synthesized for the first time in the early 1930s by German chemist Ferdinand Munz, and like many other good inventions, chelation therapy emerged in a time of war — by showing promise as an “antidote” for arsenic-based chemical weapons. It has been deployed since the WWII era with mostly positive results.
Chelation therapy is considered to be relatively safe with proper monitoring, and is promoted for having several other health augmenting benefits in addition to its ability to eliminate toxic metals. Nevertheless, it can have side effects and poses some risks.
After the war was over, EDTA was used in the U.S. to help workers who had become utterly lead laden by painting American war ships. Shortly after, while treating employees poisoned with lead in battery factories, researchers noticed a marked improvement in patients with angina pectoris and other coronary disease. In a subsequent research group, 87% of patients with cardiovascular disease experienced noteworthy improvements in their symptomatology after undergoing EDTA sessions.
It is claimed by many the substance can dramatically reduce plaque in the arteries, in some cases eliminating the need for surgery altogether, simultaneously lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. It reportedly does this by bonding with calcium within the plaque. This treatment is not accepted by the American Heart Association (AHA), though there is evidence suggesting it can work. For mysterious reasons unknown to us, the FDA and AHA have put forth considerable effort to discourage the use of EDTA for coronary disease.
EDTA has also been reported to be a fast and powerful treatment for people suffering with severe kidney or gallstones — given its strong ability to bond with, and strip calcium from the body, it’s easy to imagine how that could be.
CHELATION IS INEXPENSIVE AND READILY AVAILABLE
If you do choose to use chelators, just know they can and will strip other beneficial minerals from the body. That’s why health experts say it’s also important to take a multi-vitamin and trace-minerals, both while undergoing the therapy, and after treatment has stopped, to replenish the body. This is true for both ETDA and zeolites. It is also advised to monitor calcium levels, especially with intravenous EDTA treatments, to make sure levels don’t drop too low.
Zeolites and oral EDTA are available in most health food stores in America — and what’s better, at an affordable price. Even intravenous EDTA treatments cost only between $100-150 a piece.
That stated, chelation is not a “hippie,” “new age” or “alternative” treatment at all — in fact, its roots lie in conventional Western science. EDTA has been applied in clinics across the U.S. to treat acute, life-threatening lead, mercury and arsenic poisoning for decades — though it is only FDA approved for lead.
WHAT SHOULD THE PARENTS AND RESIDENTS OF FLINT DO?
As a hard-line investigative news agency, it is neither EnviroNews’ role nor position to advise readers/viewers in matters of making health decisions — but via our own mission statement, it is our duty to impart accurate information and to report neutrally on matters pertaining to the environment, energy, health, nature and wildlife.
With that stated, we felt it necessary to take a stance with this editorial on the rampant mainstream media failure in this case — in an effort to at least report on the existence of medical and therapeutic techniques that could provide possible assistance to the residents and children of Flint.
Lead can be chelated and cleansed from the body — this is known and understood, and that is good news. So, why in the world hasn’t the mainstream media been discussing this? Why has it been mentioned scarcely at all? If for nothing else, the media owes the poor stressed-out parents in Flint some hopeful information to work with for a change — some useful data on how to better protect their children from the potentially tragic ramifications of lead poisoning.
Make no mistake, there will be lasting damage from the unbelievable environmental debacle in Flint, but at the same time, the longer that increased levels of lead remain in the blood and tissues, the greater the damage will be. The longer people wait to detoxify themselves, the more severe the damage can become.
We are not saying that all of the lead can be removed from a person’s system through the aforementioned therapies, but if any reduction in blood-lead-levels in children can be achieved, shouldn’t these detoxification techniques be examined thoroughly?
Hopefully the mainstream media and network television will at least spark a conversation about chelation therapy. The people of Flint deserve to know, first of all that such therapies exist, and secondly about the pros and cons.
So, which is greater risk: detoxifying the lead with chelation therapy, or allowing it to remain in the body and do its damage? What should parents and residents of Flint do about the lead now lodged in their bodies? That is up to them and their doctors to decide — but whatever therapy they do choose, Governor Rick Snyder and his faulty administration should be the ones made to pay for it.