The New York Times Magazine’s annual Year In Ideas issue is well worth reviewing. Here’s what I thought was the scariest idea of 2009 … subduing the population by putting lithium in public water systems (as if fluoride wasn’t bad enough, which of course the Times does not acknowledge, stating exactly the opposite):
America has been adding fluoride to its public water supplies for decades, based on overwhelming evidence that even low levels of the substance can significantly reduce tooth decay, with no major side effects. Now research from Japan suggests expanding the list of aqueous additives — namely, to lithium.
Lithium often occurs naturally, in trace amounts, in water supplies, particularly in areas with a high concentration of granite. In The British Journal of Psychiatry earlier this year, the neuropsychiatrist Takeshi Terao and other researchers showed that communities in Japan’s Oita Prefecture with higher levels of naturally occurring lithium in their water supplies had fewer suicides than those with lower levels. The amounts range between 0.7 and 59 micrograms per liter. Lithium in prescription doses (say, 600 to 900 milligrams) helps reduce mood swings in patients with bipolar disorder, but Terao and his colleagues speculate that drinking even small amounts over time has a cumulative effect, building up a resistance to the onset of mood swings in the first place. The researchers note that more work is needed before public-policy makers can consider adding lithium to water supplies…
[continues in the NYT Magazine]