Autism Skin Treatment for Mercury

Alternative autism treatment used on the skin to remove mercury may not work

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Some web sources say that removing heavy metals, like mercury, can cure autism. Science doesn’t back up this claim. And some chelation therapies to remove metals may not even work.

A recent study looked at a treatment rubbed on the skin to remove mercury. They found that it doesn’t seem to work. 

Adults getting the skin treatment did not show any signs that the drug was even absorbed into the body.

"Talk to a doctor before starting any treatment."

Researchers, led by Jennifer Cohen, MD, of the Department of Medical Toxicology at the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, knew that skin treatment with drug called dimercaptopropanesulfonic  acid (DMPS) was used by some people as a treatment for autism.

DMPS advocates claims the agent takes mercury out of the body by attaching to it – called chelation therapy. Pills or injections of DMPS appear to work, but no research has been published for the skin application of it.

So they had eight healthy adults get a skin treatment of DMPS.  They measured mercury levels in their urine before the treatment.

Then they took urine samples just after the treatment and 30, 60, 90, 120, and 240 minutes after getting the treatment.

When mercury is cleared out of the body by drugs like this, it should show up as higher levels of mercury in the urine.

The researchers then looked for DMPS in the urine – to see if the drug was even absorbed by the body.

They found that none of the people in the study had DMPS in their urine or rising levels of mercury in their urine after the skin treatment.

The authors concluded that DMPS does not work to remove mercury when it is applied on the skin.

However, this was a very small group of people tested, and they were not children. So, it is possible that DMPS skin treatment might work differently in children.

dailyRx News spoke with Glen Elliott, MD, PhD, a child psychiatrist, about the results of this study.

He said, “This article is highly useful for those who continue to believe, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that excessive mercury accumulation in the body is a possible cause of autism. “

“Naturally, those who hold this belief look for a way to reduce the postulated excess mercury load with the least possible side effects and greatest safety to the child.  Transdermal administration of a chelating agent has been one such approach.”

“The authors nicely demonstrate that, at least in adults, this approach is not accomplishing the desired goal because the chelating agent is not absorbed.  It is a wonderful example of the ongoing need for solid research on complementary interventions as well as more conventional treatments.”

DMPS is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the US.

However, a quick internet search led to multiple websites that advertise the purchase of DMPS skin treatments. They connect Americans with foreign doctors to get a prescription for the purchase.

At least one international compounding pharmacist also advertises DMPS for the treatment of autism, and offers it for purchase.

Buying online from foreign pharmacies can be risky.

Many other websites about autism discuss the use of chelation therapy to treat autism or cure autism. Chelation therapy should only be used under direct doctor’s supervision.

This study was published November 10 in the Journal of Medical Toxicology. Additional authors on this study work for the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 14, 2012
Last Updated:
May 7, 2013