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Lithium in drinking water to reduce violent behavior?

Lithium is just one of the elements naturally found in some drinking water. (Image: CDC)

Some time ago I had written about "the water fluoridation controversy." As a brief reminder, fluoride is commonly added to drinking water as a public health means of supporting oral care. Many are upset about this, however, as it "forces" fluoride consumption on them, and they cite a lack of supporting evidence for its efficacy as well. In this article, I would like to direct attention to a different natural element: Lithium.

Lithium is ubiquitously found in nature and it is frequently found in varying concentrations in natural drinking water, much like fluoride. Instead of contributing to oral health like fluoride, lithium is conventionally used in medicine for the treatment of mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. Why is this important, you may ask? Well, I stumbled across a few papers that describe varying concentrations of lithium levels in drinking water and its effect on suicide and violent behaviour.

These research papers seem to indicate that higher lithium levels in drinking water have a significant effect on reducing levels of suicide and violent behavior, and question whether the artificial addition of lithium into drinking water should be considered if further evidence substantiates such a relationship. It is important to note, however, that a recent paper was not able to confirm this inverse relationship in East England, though this study did admit to having a limitation: the levels of lithium across the regions studied were much lower than those found in the studies that showed significant results.

It is not the purpose of this particular post to support or refute this relationship, but rather to shed light on this little-known research. It could very well be a valuable discussion to consider adding lithium to tap water if doing so indeed demonstrates efficacy in reducing suicide and violent behavior—at least in areas that lack lithium from natural sources. The costs of such a program could certainly be less compared to the health care cost benefits that may arise from a reduction in mental health treatments; however, concerns akin to those brought forth by water fluoridation are sure to accompany such a proposal.

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Lithium is just one of the elements naturally found in some drinking water. (Image: CDC)
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