Exposure to lithium through drinking water and calcium homeostasis during pregnancy: A longitudinal study

Environ Res. 2016 May;147:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.01.031. Epub 2016 Jan 30.


There is increasing evidence of adverse health effects due to elevated lithium exposure through drinking water but the impact on calcium homeostasis is unknown. This study aimed at elucidating if lithium exposure through drinking water during pregnancy may impair the maternal calcium homeostasis. In a population-based mother-child cohort in the Argentinean Andes (n=178), with elevated lithium concentrations in the drinking water (5-1660μg/L), blood lithium concentrations (correlating significantly with lithium in water, urine and plasma) were measured repeatedly during pregnancy by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and used as exposure biomarker. Markers of calcium homeostasis included: plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D3, serum parathyroid hormone (PTH), and calcium, phosphorus and magnesium concentrations in serum and urine. The median maternal blood lithium concentration was 25μg/L (range 1.9-145). In multivariable-adjusted mixed-effects linear regression models, blood lithium was inversely associated with 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (-6.1nmol/L [95%CI -9.5; -2.6] for a 25μg/L increment in blood lithium). The estimate increased markedly with increasing percentiles of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3. In multivariable-adjusted mixed-effects logistic regression models, the odds ratio of having 25-hydroxyvitamin D3<30nmol/L (19% of the women) was 4.6 (95%CI 1.1; 19.3) for a 25μg/L increment in blood lithium. Blood lithium was also positively associated with serum magnesium, but not with serum calcium and PTH, and inversely associated with urinary calcium and magnesium. In conclusion, our study suggests that lithium exposure through drinking water during pregnancy may impair the calcium homeostasis, particularly vitamin D. The results reinforce the need for better control of lithium in drinking water, including bottled water.

Keywords: Calcium homeostasis; Drinking water; Lithium; Pregnancy; Vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Argentina
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Calcium / blood*
  • Calcium / urine*
  • Drinking Water / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Lithium / analysis
  • Lithium / blood
  • Lithium / metabolism*
  • Lithium / urine
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pregnancy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / blood
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / urine
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Drinking Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Lithium
  • Calcium