Narrator: This is Science Today. One of the most common drugs used to treat lead poisoning is called succimer. Toxicologist Donald Smith of the University of California, Santa Cruz, says succimer is taken orally to induce a process known as chelation.
Smith: Chelation treatment is something that's used relatively commonly in the clinical setting whereby a therapeutic agent, a drug, is administered via injection or oral and this drug acts essentially like a sponge and it binds the metal, lead in this case, and makes it in a form that can be readily eliminated from the body, usually via the urine.
Narrator: This process helps reduce lead levels in the body, especially the blood.
Smith: But what's not known is how effective they actually are at reducing some forms of toxicity and part of that question is whether lead toxicity or lead exposure at certain ages creates a permanent level of toxicity or something that can be reversed by lowering the body lead levels.
Narrator: Smith's research is aimed at helping doctors evaluate the overall benefits of treatment. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.