Get the Lead Out With Chelation

Get the Lead Out With Chelation

Julian Whitaker, MD

About 20 years ago, I began administering EDTA chelation therapy to my patients with cardiovascular disease. I had been using vitamins, minerals, and nutrition as my primary therapies since I first opened the Whitaker Wellness Institute in 1979, but I steered clear of chelation for political reasons. No other therapy generates as much hostility among conventional physicians. It’s an “us vs. them” situation, and a physician who uses chelation has crossed the line.

Since I Crossed the Line

In the intervening years, I have seen remarkable results with chelation therapy in hundreds of patients. Twelve years ago, Jerome, plagued by a nonhealing diabetic ulcer, literally walked away from a leg amputation hours before surgery. He checked himself out of the hospital and came to the clinic for chelation and wound care. Today, he is walking around on his own two feet.

Richard, hospitalized with severe chest pain, was told that if he didn’t have bypass surgery, he would die. He left the hospital against medical advice to give chelation a try, and three years later he remains pain-free on no medications.

Before his course of chelation, John could barely walk a block without severe chest pain; six months later, he climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

Two years ago, Lou had a 70-75 percent blockage in his left carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain. His doctor recommended surgery to open it up. Instead Lou began EDTA chelation therapy. Much to the surprise of his cardiologist, repeat ultrasound a year later showed regression of the blockage to 45 percent.

These are not isolated cases. Virtually all doctors who use chelation in their practices report similar successes. Yet even those of us who know from years of clinical experience that EDTA chelation is a dependable, effective therapy honestly don’t know exactly how it works.

What Is EDTA Chelation Therapy?

EDTA is a chelating agent. Administered intravenously in a slow infusion, this synthetic amino acid binds to minerals and toxic heavy metals, primarily lead, and carries them out of the body via the urine.

One theory as to why chelation helps patients with cardiovascular disease is that it removes calcium from arterial plaque. Another theory is that because EDTA is a potent antioxidant, it reduces free radical damage to the blood vessels and improves their function. Yet the most plausible explanation for chelation’s benefits is also the simplest and most obvious.

There is no doubt that EDTA chelation therapy dramatically lowers the burden of lead and other toxic heavy metals in the body. In fact, it is the FDA-approved treatment of choice for lead poisoning. New findings confirm that lead is toxic to the kidneys, nervous system, and cardiovascular system at much lower levels than previously believed. This suggests that chelation’s primary benefit for heart disease may be lead removal.

The Heavy Burden of Lead

We are constantly exposed to toxic heavy metals, and chief among them is lead. From automobile and industrial emissions, contaminated soils, lead-based paints, lead crystal, and waste dumps, lead finds its way into our bodies. Children are especially vulnerable, as this neurotoxin causes significant reductions in IQ, behavior problems, and impaired growth. In adults, it harms the kidneys and nervous system, causes anemia and miscarriages, increases the risk of high blood pressure, and accelerates free radical damage.

We’ve made strides in recent years in reducing lead exposure by lowering the amount of lead in gasoline and banning lead-based paint. However, even if your current exposure is minimal, you’re still carrying some of the lead that you were exposed to in the past, most of it stored in your bones. The average bone level of lead today is hundreds of times higher than before the industrial revolution 200 years ago. And we’re just now beginning to understand the long-term repercussions of this heavy metal burden.

High Lead Levels Increase Risk of Death

To assess the impact of lead on health, researchers from Johns Hopkins University examined blood levels and mortality data of 4,292 men and women. After adjusting for age, smoking history, body mass index, and other factors, they found that people whose blood levels measured 20-29 mcg/dL had a 39 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other circulatory diseases, compared to those with lead levels below 10 mcg/dL. They also had a 68 percent increased risk of death from cancer and a 46 percent increase in death from all causes.

To put these levels into perspective, consider that the current acceptable blood lead level for occupational exposure is 40 mcg/dL, and blood levels as low as 10 mcg/dL are linked to adverse effects in children. Yet according to new research, there is no safe level of this toxic element—even minute levels in the body have adverse effects on health.

Can Chelation Lower Blood Pressure?

For several years now, the case for lead as a hidden cause of hypertension has been growing. The kidneys are a key player in blood pressure regulation, and ample research supports the link between elevated levels of lead, kidney damage, and hypertension.

The most recent study supporting this relationship was published in March 2003. Researchers measured the blood lead levels in more than 2,000 women, ages 40 to 59, and correlated them with blood pressure levels. They found that blood lead levels “well below the current US occupational exposure limit guidelines (40 mcg/dL)” were positively associated with the risk of hypertension.

“Well below” the current exposure limit is an understatement! The average lead level was 2.9 mcg/dL. The lead levels in the group of women at highest risk averaged 6.4 mcg/dL. These women were 3.4 times more likely to have high blood pressure than those whose lead levels were less than 1.6 mcg/dL—a huge increase in risk for a relatively small increase in blood levels. To set the level of safe occupational exposure at 40 mcg/dL and the level of concern for children at 10 mcg/dL is absurd.

Lead Is Mobilized From Bone

An interesting finding of this study is that those at greatest risk were postmenopausal women. It is well known that these women lose a significant amount of bone mass, most of it in the early years of menopause. As bone breaks down, it releases stored lead into the bloodstream, elevating lead levels and increasing risk of hypertension and other health problems.

The authors concluded, “These results provide support for continued efforts to reduce lead levels in the general population, especially women.” But they failed to mention that an extremely safe, reliable, and predictable way to eliminate the lead burden already exists, and that is EDTA chelation therapy. A better recommendation might have been for all women to undergo a course of chelation at menopause to lower lead levels and protect against disease.

New Hope for Kidney Disease

In another study published earlier this year, researchers not only uncovered lead as a culprit in kidney disease, but they also did something about it, with astounding results.

Taiwanese researchers followed 202 patients with chronic kidney disease for two years and found that even low levels of lead accelerated the progression of the disease. They then randomly divided the patients with the highest lead levels into two groups and administered a course of EDTA chelation or placebo infusions, followed by regular maintenance treatments. When the patients were reevaluated after two years, there was significant improvement in the kidney function of patients who received chelation, compared with those who had the placebo. (I found this study particularly provocative because one of the major criticisms in the battle cry of conventional physicians against chelation therapy is its potential for causing kidney disease.)

This study virtually screams for EDTA chelation to be used for the treatment of kidney disease. The authors estimated it could delay the need for dialysis by years, saving millions of dollars in treatment costs and preventing untold amounts of human suffering.

It also has enormous implications for hypertension and cardiovascular disease. As I mentioned above, the kidneys play an important role in blood pressure, and even subtle declines in kidney function can cause hypertension.

Will Chelation Finally Be Accepted?

When the cardiovascular benefits of EDTA chelation were serendipitously discovered in the 1950s, the therapy was met with enthusiasm, and for a time, even conventional physicians embraced it. However, as drugs and surgical procedures for the treatment of heart disease gained popularity, chelation fell out of favor, and there it has remained. Neither the findings of well-conducted studies such as those discussed above, nor the clinical experience of millions of patients are likely to break the bias of conventional physicians. (My patients routinely tell me that their cardiologists simply refuse to acknowledge that EDTA chelation therapy could have contributed to their remarkable improvements.)

What may change things is a $30 million government-funded study on the efficacy of EDTA chelation therapy for the treatment of coronary artery disease that is ongoing. You could wait for the results of this study years down the road. Or you can call the Whitaker Wellness Institute and find out how this therapy can help you.


  • For information on receiving EDTA chelation therapy at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253 or click here.
  • To learn more about chelation, read Questions from the Heart by Terry Chappell, MD. I also discuss chelation in greater detail in my book, Reversing Heart Disease. To order, call (800) 810-6655.


  • Lin JL et al. Environmental lead exposure and progression of chronic renal diseases in patients without diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2003;348(4):277-86.
  • Lustberg M et al. Blood lead levels and mortality. Arch Intern Med. 2002;162(21):2443-9.
  • Nash D et al. Blood lead, blood pressure, and hypertension in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. JAMA. 2003;289(12):1523-32.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2007. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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