Does lithium in drinking water contribute to autism?
Lithium is the 33rd most common element in the earth’s crust, commonly found in drinking water and not regulated in the U.S. by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Lithium also happens to be an established and effective psychiatric medication: It is a first-line treatment for bipolar disorder and also prescribed off-label for other purposes, such as major depressive disorder and suicidal behavior. Recent research has suggested that there may be a link between lithium and autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. In this article, we will explore the possible connection between autism and lithium.
Recently, a research study in Denmark used a statistical model to spatially interpolate lithium concentrations for the entire country and assigned lithium exposures for 52,706 children. The results were startling: compared with children in the lowest quartile of lithium exposure, those in the highest quartile had nearly 50 percent higher odds of autism.
These findings may seem alarming, but it’s important to note that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. While the Denmark study suggested a link between lithium exposure and autism, it did not establish causality. It is possible that other factors, such as genetics, environmental toxins, or maternal health, could have contributed to the observed association.
Moreover, it is important to note that lithium medication use during pregnancy has never been implicated, let alone studied, in autism. Therefore, an obvious starting point is a study of whether lithium medication use during pregnancy is associated with autism. While lithium has been used for decades as a treatment for bipolar disorder during pregnancy, the effects on the developing fetus have not been well studied.
However, there are reasons to believe that lithium use during pregnancy may not be a major risk factor for autism. Lithium has been shown to be beneficial for reducing the risk of suicide, a common co-morbidity of depression and bipolar disorder. Furthermore, functional medication doctors like Dr. Amber Brooks can help children detox from heavy metals.
In conclusion, the connection between autism and lithium is a complex issue that requires further research. While the Denmark study provides some intriguing evidence of a possible association, it does not establish causality. Lithium remains a powerful and valuable treatment for mental illness, and more research is needed to determine its safety and effectiveness during pregnancy and in the context of autism. Until then, it is essential that patients consult with their doctors and make informed decisions about their treatment options.