Pregnant women who drink tap water containing high levels of lithium are more likely to have children with autism, a new study warns. Researchers analyzed data from Denmark and found that mothers-to-be drinking water with the highest lithium levels were almost 50 percent more likely to have autistic children.
The team from UCLA found that the higher the lithium levels in the water supply, the more likely women were to give birth to babies with autism. Study authors warn that lithium levels in water could become more widespread in the near future due to lithium battery use and disposal in landfills — which could lead to an increase in developmental disabilities such as autism.
Researchers say this is one of the first ever studies to identify naturally-occurring lithium in water as a potential risk factor for autism. The team studied data collected from Denmark over 16 years, between 1997 and 2013. They chose to use the Danish data due to the country having the lowest consumption of bottled water in Europe, meaning most of the population drinks tap water.