Lithium in the Public Water Supply and Suicide Mortality in Greece

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the association between lithium levels in the public water supply and prefecture-based suicide rates in Greece. Analyses were conducted with respect to lithium levels in 149 samples from 34 prefectures of Greece. The average lithium level was 11.10 μg/l (range 0.1 to 121 μg/l). The results indicate that there is a tendency for lower suicide rates in the prefectures with high levels of lithium in drinking water. Ecological studies explained by researchers Schrauzer and Shrestha have revealed the existence of statistically significant inverse asso- ciations between the lithium levels in drinking water and the incidence of suicides, homicides, rapes, possession of narcotic drugs, and in juveniles, the rates of runaway from home. Such a result of inverse relationship was not proven by Kabacs et al., most likely because the differences of the lithium levels in the selection of their case–control samples were not large enough. In addition, probably the selection of random regions in Japan and East England might have been biased. Thus, the addition of small amounts of lithium to the drinking water could provide an effective means to lower the incidence of these conditions in the general population. Furthermore, the nutritional importance of lithium in the form of the carbonate named lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) is currently still viewed primarily as a pharmacological agent. The study by Al- Chalabi et al. state that the therapeutic activity of lithium in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is worth investigating. Any drug that can be shown to slow the course of ALS in a clinically significant way and to be safe and well tolerated will be an important advance for patients with this disease.

Orestis Giotakos, Paul Nisianakis, George Tsouvelas and Vera-Varvara Giakalou

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