Water fluoridation is the controlled addition of fluoride to water systems as a way to prevent tooth decay, and is also known as a form of mass medication. People’s fear of this unusual method of medication has endured, and some experts now suggest lithium as the next potential fluoride, a second medicinal addition to water systems.
As fluoride prevents cavities, lithium, a drug used to treat people who suffer from bipolar disorder, is said to reduce impulsivity. Serotonin and norepinephrine, two brain chemicals with antidepressant effects, are known to be produced in the brain with the consumption of lithium, leading some experts to suggest the additive would reduce behaviors such as violent crime, rape and suicide.
Many of the researchers say the amount would be significantly smaller than the standard dose., Associate professor of the department of psychology, Dr. Paul Gilbert, said the amount of lithium found in water would be far less than what would be needed to achieve a therapeutic dose, making it unlikely to have any meaningful effects on the brain.
In 1989, professor emeritus of University of California, San Diego, Dr. Gerhard Schrauzer, published the first document exploring the linkage between lithium levels in water systems and violent crime, rape and suicide. His work concluded an inverse relationship between lithium levels and the rates of all three, yet his reports were not well-taken.
“People were convinced I was trying to impose mass mind control,” Schrauzer said. “There was widespread ignorance about what lithium does and what we as scientists were proposing to do with it.
In 2009, The New York Times included “Lithium in the Water Supply” as part of its ninth annual Year-In-Ideas special. The research recognized in the article was a study conducted in Japan, which suggests that areas in Japan’s Oita Prefecture, a community with high levels of naturally occurring lithium, had fewer suicides compared to communities with lower levels of lithium.
Unquantifiable amounts of lithium occur naturally in water supplies, particularly in areas where granite is highly concentrated.
Last month, a new study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, conducted in Austria, furthered the idea of lithium as an additive to water systems. Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna examined lithium measurements of 99 Austrian districts in order to associate them with the suicide rates in each district. The study’s conclusion claimed geographic regions with higher natural lithium concentration in drinking water are associated with lower suicide rates.
“Four to 15 percent of the country’s geographic variation in suicides was due to lithium content in regional water supplies,” Katie Drummon said in her article “Liquid Medicine,” published in “The Daily.”
According to Gilbert, suicide is a major societal concern, but because only a small percent of the population actually attempts suicide, it would not be prudent to add a chemical to the water systems that would be consumed by the entire population when only a fraction of the population has suicidal ideations. Such an idea could be a central argument in the discrimination between fluoride and lithium.
“I cannot imagine many public health officials, physicians or researchers will give much merit to this study,” Gilbert said.