Substances are added to tap water make it 'cleaner, clearer and better'
- Scientists are looking into whether adding lithium could help mental health
- It is prescribed as a mood-stabilising drug, mainly for bipolar disorder
- Despite the fact that doses would be extremely low, it's a controversial step
Tap water in the UK is anything but pure H2O.
Depending on where you live, many substances are added to make it cleaner, clearer and supposedly better for you.
With Scottish researchers investigating whether lithium should be added to the water to boost mood, we look at what's being put in your water before it reaches your glass - and its impact on your health.
Should lithium be in the water supply?
Scientists in Scotland are looking into whether adding lithium to water supplies could help mental health. Lithium is prescribed as a mood-stabilising drug (a typical daily dose is 300 mg), mainly for bipolar disorder, and is thought to work by modifying certain chemicals in the brain.
But it occurs naturally in many water sources in Scotland, leaching out from volcanic rock at very low concentration (providing a daily dose of about 2 mg per two litres of water).
Now researchers at the University of Glasgow School of Medicine are investigating where there is a link between lithium in water and lower suicide rates - previous research in Austria and Japan suggests that people whose water supply naturally contains lithium are less likely to take their own lives.
'We want to improve the methodology by looking at smaller postcode areas,' explains Daniel Smith, a professor of psychiatry, who is heading the research.
Results are expected next year and could spark discussions about adding lithium to the water supply.But, despite the fact that doses would be extremely low, it's a controversial step. One scientist has reportedly received death threats over his involvement in the research.
Chris Exley, professor of bioinorganic chemistry at Keele University, thinks it 'unlikely' that lithium will be added to water supplies soon. But he says that such low amounts are unlikely to cause harm or make any difference to mood anyway.............
...Professor Exley, who has previously reported that there is possible link between Alzheimer's and aluminium, says: 'There should not be a downside to adding aluminium sulphate to the water supply as long as the process is well controlled and never rises above 50 parts per billion.'
However, in 1988, a tanker driver in Camelford, Cornwall, emptied 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate straight into the water supply by mistake, exposing local people to 3,000 times the permitted level.
Despite many people complaining of problems, including dementia, the final report concluded it was unlikely the exposure could have caused long-term health effects