EDTA is used to bind metal ions in the practice of chelation therapy, e.g., for treating mercury and lead poisoning. It is used in a similar manner to remove excess iron from the body. This therapy is used to treat the complication of repeated blood transfusions, as would be applied to treat thalassaemia. The U.S. FDA approved the use of EDTA for lead poisoning on July 16, 1953, under the brand name of Versenate,which was licensed to the pharmaceutical company Riker.
From 2003 to 2005, deaths of 3 individuals as a result of cardiac arrest caused by hypocalcemia during chelation therapy with EDTA were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dentists and endodontists use EDTA solutions to remove inorganic debris (smear layer) and lubricate the canals in endodontics. This procedure helps prepare root canals for obturation. Furthermore, EDTA solutions with the addition of a surfactant loosen up calcifications inside a root canal and allow instrumentation (canals shaping) and facilitate apical advancement of a file in a tight/calcified root canal towards the apex. It serves as a preservative (usually to enhance the action of another preservative such as benzalkonium chloride or thiomersal) in ocular preparations and eyedrops. In evaluating kidney function, the complex [Cr(edta)]− is administered intravenously and its filtration into the urine is monitored. This method is useful for evaluating glomerular filtration rate.
EDTA is used extensively in the analysis of blood. It is an anticoagulant for blood samples for CBC/FBEs.
EDTA is a slime dispersant, and has been found to be highly effective in reducing bacterial growth during implantation of intraocular lenses (IOLs).