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What Are the Medical Uses of Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 17, 2024
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A synthetic chemical compound known as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) removes heavy metals from the bloodstream as a poison antidote. The combination of sodium cyanide, formaldehyde, and ethylenediamine causes a chemical reaction that binds with metal ions and enables the body to excrete them through the urine. Called chelation therapy, an ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid solution is administered intravenously to treat heavy metal poisoning and extremely high levels of calcium in the blood. As an alternative medicine, EDTA treats heart disease, but medical experts say chelating therapy for heart disorders proves no more effective than a placebo.

The most common form of heavy metal poisoning occurs with lead, mercury, aluminum, and nickel. Scientists believe an accumulation of heavy metals in the bloodstream might precipitate Alzheimer’s disease and disorders of the immune system. They also link heavy metals to attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity in children, autism, and gastric diseases. Excess metals in the blood might also contribute to the formation of plaque and heart disease.

Chelation therapists typically administer ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid with doses of vitamin B, vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium to avoid depleting these vital nutrients during treatment. Vital signs, and vitamin and mineral levels, require monitoring before, during, and after treatment to ensure levels remain healthy. If nutrient levels fall, they can be added to the intravenous ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid solution.

Children affected by lead poisoning typically receive chelation therapy in the hospital or an outpatient clinic. Doctors evaluate the level of lead in the blood and the child’s weight to determine treatment doses. Children commonly receive ethylenediaminetetraacetic therapy for five days to address lead poisoning. Adults might need one to three hour daily intravenous treatments until heavy metal levels subside.

Proponents of chelation therapy for heart disease say the chemical solution dissolves plaque that causes hardening of the arteries, based on animal studies. Recognized health experts have disputed this theory after numerous studies on EDTA and heart disease. Its safety as an alternative treatment for heart patients is unknown.

Side effects of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid therapy include burning at the injection site and allergic reaction to the chemicals. Serious complications might produce kidney damage, extremely low blood pressure, low blood sugar readings, and seizures. Most deaths connected to EDTA occur when calcium levels fall dangerously low.

EDTA represents an additive used in the food and drug manufacturing process. It preserves the flavor of some foods and protects against discoloration of food and medicines. The chemical compound allows carbonated beverages to retain their fizz, and reduces calcium content in hard water. Textile manufacturers find EDTA helpful when dyeing fabrics, and the substance is also added to soaps and chemical sprays.

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