Maternal prenatal exposure to lithium from naturally occurring drinking water sources linked to increased autism spectrum disorder risk
By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter
WEDNESDAY, April 5, 2023 (HealthDay News) — The risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is increased in association with estimated maternal prenatal exposure to lithium from naturally occurring drinking water sources, according to a study published online April 3 in JAMA Pediatrics.
Zeyan Liew, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues examined whether ASD in offspring is associated with maternal exposure to lithium in drinking water during pregnancy in a nationwide case-control study. A total of 8,842 children diagnosed with ASD born from 2000 through 2013 and 43,864 control participants matched by birth year and sex were included. Geocoded maternal residential addresses during pregnancy were linked to lithium level in drinking water. The odds ratios for ASD were estimated according to estimated geocoded maternal exposure to a natural source of lithium in drinking water as a continuous or categorical variable (per interquartile range [IQR] and quartile, respectively).
The researchers found that the odds of ASD in offspring were increased in association with every IQR increase in estimated geocoded maternal exposure to a natural source of lithium in drinking water (odds ratio, 1.23). Elevated odds of ASD in offspring were estimated starting from the second quartile of estimated maternal exposure to drinking water with lithium (7.36 to 12.67 Âµg/L), with an odds ratio of 1.46 for the highest quartile versus the reference group (>16.78 versus <7.39 Âµg/L). When adjusting for air pollution exposures, the associations were unchanged.
“This study suggests that naturally occurring lithium in drinking water may be a novel environmental risk factor for ASD development that requires further scrutiny,” the authors write.
One author reported grants from Novo Nordisk Foundation; a second reported being a consultant for plaintiffs in a lawsuit concerning autism and lead, arsenic, and mercury in food.
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