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Veterinarian Reviewed on January 9, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
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EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), a water soluble and colorless polyamino carboxylic acid. It is commonly used in dissolving limescale, and is popular for its usefulness as hexadentate ligand and as a chelating agent. The metal ions that were bound by EDTA may remain in the solution, but they are diminished for reactivation. It is an antioxidant and sequestrant added to food, household products, and body care products. EDTA can be produced to several salts such as calcium disodium EDTA and disodium EDTA.

History and Origin

Ferdinand Munz first identified EDTA in the year 1935. He prepared the compound using chloroacetic acid and ethylenediamine. Currently, the synthesis of EDTA is from formaldehyde, ethylenediamine, and sodium cyanide. The combination produces sodium salt that may be subsequently converted to acid forms.

Ancient Uses

Researches made in the late 1960s by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences indicated EDTA to be effective in treating blocked arteries (arteriosclerosis). Combining with minerals and oral vitamins, it helps in dissolving plaques and other mineral deposits that are associated with the hardening of arteries.

Modern Uses

EDTA is certified safe for use as both a food additive and a preservative. It can do the following functions in foods:

• Sequester metals

• Stabilize vitamins

• Prevent potato product discoloration

• Prevent changes of milk flavor

• Prevent fish and shellfish discoloration

• Enhance foaming properties of skim milk (reconstituted)

• Avoid thickening of condensed milk

• Preserve canned legumes

• Prevent changes in color of scrambled egg

• Promote the retention of flavor and delay the loss of soft drink carbonation

• Prevent the gushing in beer

• Prevent meat products oxidation

• Prevent canned vegetables and fruits discoloration

EDTA is also added in household products, body care, and Pharmaceutical products as follows:

• Detergents, shampoos, liquid soaps

• Agricultural chemical sprays

• Oil emulsions

• To textiles for dyeing improvement

• Scouring and detergent use

• Metal chelating agent

• Use in metal plating and cleaning

• Chlorosis treatment

• Radioactive surfaces decontamination

• Deactivate metals in vegetable oil

• Act as an anticoagulant in the blood

• Has antioxidant function

• Cleaning liquids

• Aids blood cholesterol reduction

• Treats lead poisoning

• Added as a replacement for phosphate compounds

EDTA is useful in the removal of unnecessary metals acquired by foods from the soil as well as from the machines used during harvesting and processing. EDTA reacts by forming closed bound complexes in order to avoid decomposition. The cheaper forms of EDTA are useful in batteries and in other non-consumable products.

Side Effects

The usual side effect of EDTA is a burning sensation at the injection site whenever it is injected into a person’s skin. Additionally, EDTA may also cause mild to severe allergic reactions in some people that are particularly sensitive to EDTA. The other side effects of EDTA include the lowering of a person’s blood sugar levels, causing headaches and migraines, reducing a person’s calcium levels, causing nausea, lowering blood pressure, damaging certain organs, kidney failure, causing seizures, causing irregular heartbeats, and EDTA may even cause death.

EDTA is found to be not effective in the treatment of heart disease. Various medical organizations including the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association denounced and criticized the EDTA chelation therapy practice in connection with heart disease.

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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