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Toxicological Quackery Part 1

Posted: June 12th, 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Some Medical Treatments to Avoid like the Plague

It’s probably no surprise that there are ineffective, unproven, and potentially dangerous alternative medical procedures available for nearly every area of medicine.  Medical toxicology is no exception.  There are more than a few medical practices which are non-FDA approved and have been associated with serious injury and even death. Patients may perhaps mistrust the traditional medical system or are desperate for miracle cures.  Some examples include:


This procedure involves periodic dietary fasting, and occasional administration of strong laxatives and/or colonic irrigation.  The latter procedure may involve enemas with excessively large volumes of water.  This aggressive treatment is touted as a remedy to cleanse the intestinal tract of toxins which are formed in the colon and absorbed into the body.

Complications associated with these unproven colon cleansing techniques:

  • Chronic use of stimulant laxatives and/or enemas lead to constipation and dependence on these products.
  • Serious outbreaks of infection, including death from bowel perforation, have been reported with use of poorly sterilized colonic irrigation equipment.
  • Administration of large volumes of fluid have caused congestive heart failure (CHF) and fluid electrolyte imbalances.


This therapy involves the intravenous administration of a chemical called disodium EDTA.  Potent “chelating” agents such as this bind a number of minerals and electrolytes in the blood.  A similar FDA-approved drug called calcium disodium EDTA is safely employed in the treatment of lead poisoning and should not be confused with disodium EDTA.  A wide variety of medical ailments allegedly improved  by chelation therapy are atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.

Numerous serious and potentially life threatening adverse reactions of chelation therapy include:

  • Lowering of blood calcium levels, irregular heart beats, kidney damage, abnormal blood clotting leading to bleeding, low blood sugar, vein irritation, blood clots, low blood zinc levels, and damage to red blood cells leading to anemia.


Public health authorities have issued numerous warnings for the general public to be cautious when ordering unregulated herbal preparations from sources outside the United States.  Unwitting consumers may believe that these herbals are generally safer since they are “all natural” yet may put themselves at risk of toxicity due to unlabeled potentially toxic substances.  For example, the California Department of Health Services conducted a study on 600 Asian herbals which found that about one third contained prescription drugs or were contaminated with toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, or lead.  In another statement issued by the FDA, diabetics were warned about herbals containing unlabeled potent diabetic medications such as glyburide or phenformin.

Acute poisoning or chronic intake of toxic metals may cause injury to nearly every organ system as noted by:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, brain and nervous system impairment, kidney damage, low blood pressure and shock, and harmful effects to unborn infants

You have probably heard of the phrase “caveat emptor” which means “buyer beware.”  When shopping for quality health care services we wish to add the warning “patient beware.”  A large number of internet sites and commercial advertisements are fraught with dubious health claims, false information, and exaggerated promises for cure.  All of which are intended to entice the gullible and at times desperate patients and/or their loved ones.  Don’t become one of them.  Do your investigative homework well and remember when in doubt- check it out.  When is comes to the substantiation of medical claims, please consult your primary care physician or another trusted health care professional.  If you think someone has been exposed to a known or suspected harmful procedure involving a potentially toxic agent, please call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

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  2. Herbs and Teas Given to Infants – Should We Be Concerned?

2 Comments on “Toxicological Quackery Part 1”

  1. 1 VeganChicago said at 8:20 am on June 13th, 2012:

    Thanks for the warning about these dubious practices. We see these crop up a lot in the vegan community and try to encourage our members to think critically before becoming victims of these scams.

  2. 2 IPC said at 9:38 am on June 13th, 2012:

    Thanks for reading! We’re glad you found the information useful. Be sure to visit every Tuesday for more great topics.

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