February 29, 2024

Public Health Alert: Natural Contaminants in Drinking Water Linked to Autism

A UCLA-led study found a link between increased lithium levels in tap water and a greater threat of autism spectrum disorder in the offspring of pregnant women exposed to it. The greatest lithium levels were connected with a 46% greater autism risk compared to the least expensive levels.
For the very first time, scientists report a possible link between autism and lithium in the water system.
A study led by a UCLA Health scientist found that pregnant females exposed to greater levels of lithium in their tap water had actually a reasonably increased risk of their offspring being identified with autism spectrum condition. This is the very first research study to determine naturally taking place lithium in drinking water as a possible ecological danger aspect for autism. As lithium levels increased, so did the risk of an autism diagnosis, with the highest quartile showing a 46% higher threat compared to the least expensive quartile. The scientists controlled for different elements, consisting of maternal attributes, socioeconomic factors, and air pollution exposures. The findings are based on premium Danish information and require replication in other populations worldwide.
Pregnant females whose family tap water had higher levels of lithium had a moderately greater threat of their offspring being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to a brand-new research study led by a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Health scientist.

The research study, published on April 3 in JAMA Pediatrics, is believed to be the first to recognize naturally happening lithium in drinking water as a possible ecological danger element for autism.
” Any drinking water impurities that may impact the establishing human brain deserve extreme analysis,” said lead research study author Beate Ritz, MD, PhD, teacher of neurology in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and teacher of public health and environmental health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “In the future, anthropogenic sources of lithium in water might end up being more widespread since of lithium battery usage and disposal in land fills with the capacity for groundwater contamination. The outcomes of our research study are based on top quality Danish information but require to be reproduced in other populations and areas of the world.”
Some lithium compounds have long been utilized as a treatment for anxiety and bipolar disorders because of lithiums mood-stabilizing effects. Nevertheless, there has actually been dispute about whether moms can safely take lithium throughout pregnancy amidst increasing evidence it is associated with higher danger of miscarriage and cardiac abnormalities or defects in babies.
Ritz, whose research focuses on how ecological direct exposures affect neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative illness, stated she chose to examine the possible association between lithium and autism threat after discovering there had actually been little research in humans about how lithium affects brain growth and development. Still, she found that some speculative research suggested lithium, which is among numerous naturally happening metals typically found in water, might impact an important molecular pathway associated with neurodevelopment and autism.
Zeyan Liew, PhD, MPH, very first author of the study and an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Yale University School of Public Health, added that this study was essential because prior research study findings from Denmark utilizing high-quality medical computer registry data have actually already revealed that consumption of low-dose and chronic lithium from drinking can affect the incident of adult beginning neuropsychiatric disorders. However, no study has actually been carried out to evaluate whether lithium from drinking water taken in by pregnant ladies impacts their childs neurodevelopment.
Ritz and Liew worked with Danish researchers who examined lithium levels in 151 public waterworks in Denmark, representing the water supply for about half of the nations population. Using a nationwide database of clients with psychiatric disorders, the researchers recognized children who were born in 1997-2013, and compared 12,799 identified with autism versus 63,681 kids who did not have an autism medical diagnosis.
As lithium levels increased, so did the danger of an autism diagnosis, the researchers reported. Compared to the most affordable quartile of recorded lithium levels– to put it simply, those in the 25th percentile– lithium levels in the third and 2nd quartiles were connected with a 24-26% higher risk of autism. In the highest quartile, the threat was 46% higher compared to the least expensive quartile.
When the information were broken down by subtypes of the condition, the researchers found a comparable relationship in between increased lithium levels and higher risk of autism medical diagnosis. They likewise discovered the association in between lithium levels and autism threat was somewhat stronger for those residing in urban locations compared to smaller towns and rural areas.
In addition to Denmarks comprehensive civil databases that have shown to be valuable resources for public health researchers, numerous other factors made Denmark suitable for this research study. Denmarks consumption of bottled water ranks among the least expensive in Europe, indicating Danes largely rely on tap water. The country also has a robust system for determining trace metals and other pollutants in their water supply. Ritz stated lithium levels in Denmarks water, when compared to other nations, are most likely in the low to moderate variety.
Reference: “Association Between Estimated Geocoded Residential Maternal Exposure to Lithium in Drinking Water and Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Offspring in Denmark” by Zeyan Liew, PhD, MPH; Qi Meng, MSc; Qi Yan, PhD; Jörg Schullehner, PhD, MSc; Birgitte Hansen, PhD, MSc; Søren Munch Kristiansen, PhD, MSc; Denitza D. Voutchkova, PhD, MSc; Jørn Olsen, MD, PhD; Annette Kjær Ersbøll, PhD; Matthias Ketzel, PhD, MSc; Ole Raaschou-Nielsen, PhD and Beate R. Ritz, MD, PhD, 3 April 2023, JAMA Pediatrics.DOI: 10.1001/ jamapediatrics.2023.0346.
Other study authors include Qi Meng and Qi Yan, both of UCLA, and Danish researchers Jörg Schullehner, Birgitte Hansen, Søren Munch Kristiansen, Denitza D. Voutchkova, Jørn Olsen, Annette Kjær Ersbøll, Matthias Ketzel, and Ole Raaschou-Nielsen.
Funding: NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge Program.

A research study led by a UCLA Health researcher found that pregnant females exposed to higher levels of lithium in their tap water had actually a moderately increased danger of their offspring being identified with autism spectrum disorder. As lithium levels increased, so did the threat of an autism diagnosis, with the greatest quartile revealing a 46% greater risk compared to the lowest quartile. “In the future, anthropogenic sources of lithium in water may become more prevalent due to the fact that of lithium battery use and disposal in landfills with the potential for groundwater contamination. As lithium levels increased, so did the threat of an autism diagnosis, the researchers reported. Compared to the least expensive quartile of recorded lithium levels– in other words, those in the 25th percentile– lithium levels in the second and third quartiles were associated with a 24-26% higher threat of autism.