Dear Dr. Baum --
I have heard that chelation has had
positive effects on animals. Can you tell me a little about it?
Henry W., Long Island, N.Y.
Dear Henry --
weekend I was fortunate enough to spend time at the beach in Dana
Point. One of the pleasures I experienced was watching the
beautiful pelicans that now appear in increasing numbers on our
coastal areas. When I moved here from New York in 1973, these birds
were on the verge of extinction, but their resurgence is one of the
major success stories of our efforts to clean our environment of
toxic chemicals. In this case, the culprit was the infamous DDT, an
insecticide that was used extensively by the agricultural interests
in our state to prevent damage to the crops. The DDT permeated its
way through the food chain where it eventually was washed out into
the ocean and wound up contaminating the fish that provided the diet
for the pelicans. As the DDT levels in the birds rose it effected
them in a very unique way. They didn't die from damage to their
internal organs. What happened was a failure to be able to
reproduce due to the ability of the DDT to selectively combine with
the calcium in their bodies thus making this critical element
unavailable to be incorporated into the shells of their eggs.
net result of the calcium deprivation was that the shells lacked the
strength to literally support the weight of the nesting mothers,
thus causing the eggs to crack open, which resulted in the death of
the embryonic birds. DDT was banned from use in the early 1970s and
within a few years, biologists were starting to note that more and
more eggs were being hatched to completion and that the egg shells
were more durable. It was then that the relationship between the
chelating effects of DDT binding the calcium and making it
unavailable for use in egg shell formation was realized. Today
these birds are off the endangered species lists and are thriving.
The principle of chelation also has its positive sides. A
common anti-coagulant, EDTA, is used in the little purple-topped
tubes that blood is collected in prior to its analysis at the
laboratory. Calcium is an element that facilitates the clotting
process but the EDTA binds to it and makes it unavailable for this
purpose and allows the blood to remain in a liquid state. What is
even more amazing, is the fact that the same EDTA is used as the
primary treatment for lead poisoning. As much as the EDTA likes to
combine with calcium, it has an even greater affinity for combining
with lead. When a patient is diagnosed with lead poisoning, calcium
EDTA is administered, whereupon the calcium is jettisoned by the
EDTA in favor of its more attractive partner, the offending lead.
The lead EDTA combination is than harmlessly excreted via the
Chelation! Who knew?