KWR rapport - KWR 2021.046

Lithium toxicity


Lithium has a wide variety of uses, including in small devices such as mobile phones, batteries for electric cars, in the glass and ceramics industries (US EPA USGS, 2021) and for the treatment of mental illness (Farmacotherapeutisch kompas 2021). In response to plans to extract lithium in the Rhine basin near Karlsruhe, RIWA needs information on the potential impact on the water quality of the Rhine, including the risks of lithium in the Rhine for drinking water supplies. KWR was asked to perform a concise assessment of the toxicity of lithium, and potential risks related to lithium in drinking water. This brief report summarizes knowledge on exposure to and toxicity of lithium, possibilities for drinking water treatment and estimates a preliminary health risk guideline. The risks of other pollutants that might enter the Rhine as a result of lithium extraction are not discussed here.
Due to the use of lithium as a medication for (potentially) lifelong mental health problems, the health effects of chronic exposure are generally well known (Van Paemel et al. 2010). For lithium, this includes both positive health effects (intended effectiveness) and negative health effects (side effects).

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