United States
Environmental Protection
1=1 m m Agency
EPA/690/R-08/016F
Final
6-12-2008
Provisional Peer Reviewed Toxicity Values for
Lithium
(CASRN 7439-93-2)
Superfund Health Risk Technical Support Center
National Center for Environmental Assessment
Office of Research and Development
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Cincinnati, OH 45268

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Acronyms and Abbreviations
bw	body weight
cc	cubic centimeters
CD	Caesarean Delivered
CERCLA	Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and
Liability Act of 1980
CNS	central nervous system
cu.m	cubic meter
DWEL	Drinking Water Equivalent Level
FEL	frank-effect level
FIFRA	Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
g	grams
GI	gastrointestinal
HEC	human equivalent concentration
Hgb	hemoglobin
i.m.	intramuscular
i.p.	intraperitoneal
IRIS	Integrated Risk Information System
IUR	inhalation unit risk
i.v.	intravenous
kg	kilogram
L	liter
LEL	lowest-effect level
LOAEL	lowest-observed-adverse-effect level
LOAEL(ADJ)	LOAEL adjusted to continuous exposure duration
LOAEL(HEC)	LOAEL adjusted for dosimetric differences across species to a human
m	meter
MCL	maximum contaminant level
MCLG	maximum contaminant level goal
MF	modifying factor
mg	milligram
mg/kg	milligrams per kilogram
mg/L	milligrams per liter
MRL	minimal risk level
MTD	maximum tolerated dose
MTL	median threshold limit
NAAQS	National Ambient Air Quality Standards
NOAEL	no-ob served-adverse-effect level
NOAEL(ADJ)	NOAEL adjusted to continuous exposure duration
NOAEL(HEC)	NOAEL adjusted for dosimetric differences across species to a human
NOEL	no-ob served-effect level
OSF	oral slope factor
p-IUR	provisional inhalation unit risk
p-OSF	provisional oral slope factor
p-RfC	provisional inhalation reference concentration
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p-RfD
provisional oral reference dose
PBPK
physiologically based pharmacokinetic
ppb
parts per billion
ppm
parts per million
PPRTV
Provisional Peer Reviewed Toxicity Value
RBC
red blood cell(s)
RCRA
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
RDDR
Regional deposited dose ratio (for the indicated lung region)
REL
relative exposure level
RfC
inhalation reference concentration
RfD
oral reference dose
RGDR
Regional gas dose ratio (for the indicated lung region)
s.c.
subcutaneous
SCE
sister chromatid exchange
SDWA
Safe Drinking Water Act
sq.cm.
square centimeters
TSCA
Toxic Substances Control Act
UF
uncertainty factor
l^g
microgram
[j,mol
micromoles
voc
volatile organic compound
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PROVISIONAL PEER REVIEWED TOXICITY VALUES
FOR LITHIUM (CASRN 7439-93-2)
Background
On December 5, 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Office of
Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI) revised its hierarchy of human
health toxicity values for Superfund risk assessments, establishing the following three tiers as the
new hierarchy:
1.	EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).
2.	Provisional Peer-Reviewed Toxicity Values (PPRTV) used in EPA's Superfund
Program.
3.	Other (peer-reviewed) toxicity values, including:
~	Minimal Risk Levels produced by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease
Registry (ATSDR),
~	California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) values, and
~	EPA Health Effects Assessment Summary Table (HEAST) values.
A PPRTV is defined as a toxicity value derived for use in the Superfund Program when
such a value is not available in EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). PPRTVs are
developed according to a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and are derived after a review of
the relevant scientific literature using the same methods, sources of data and Agency guidance
for value derivation generally used by the EPA IRIS Program. All provisional toxicity values
receive internal review by two EPA scientists and external peer review by three independently
selected scientific experts. PPRTVs differ from IRIS values in that PPRTVs do not receive the
multi-program consensus review provided for IRIS values. This is because IRIS values are
generally intended to be used in all EPA programs, while PPRTVs are developed specifically for
the Superfund Program.
Because new information becomes available and scientific methods improve over time,
PPRTVs are reviewed on a five-year basis and updated into the active database. Once an IRIS
value for a specific chemical becomes available for Agency review, the analogous PPRTV for
that same chemical is retired. It should also be noted that some PPRTV manuscripts conclude
that a PPRTV cannot be derived based on inadequate data.
Disclaimers
Users of this document should first check to see if any IRIS values exist for the chemical
of concern before proceeding to use a PPRTV. If no IRIS value is available, staff in the regional
Superfund and RCRA program offices are advised to carefully review the information provided
in this document to ensure that the PPRTVs used are appropriate for the types of exposures and
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circumstances at the Superfund site or RCRA facility in question. PPRTVs are periodically
updated; therefore, users should ensure that the values contained in the PPRTV are current at the
time of use.
It is important to remember that a provisional value alone tells very little about the
adverse effects of a chemical or the quality of evidence on which the value is based. Therefore,
users are strongly encouraged to read the entire PPRTV manuscript and understand the strengths
and limitations of the derived provisional values. PPRTVs are developed by the EPA Office of
Research and Development's National Center for Environmental Assessment, Superfund Health
Risk Technical Support Center for OSRTI. Other EPA programs or external parties who may
choose of their own initiative to use these PPRTVs are advised that Superfund resources will not
generally be used to respond to challenges of PPRTVs used in a context outside of the Superfund
Program.
Questions Regarding PPRTVs
Questions regarding the contents of the PPRTVs and their appropriate use (e.g., on
chemicals not covered, or whether chemicals have pending IRIS toxicity values) may be directed
to the EPA Office of Research and Development's National Center for Environmental
Assessment, Superfund Health Risk Technical Support Center (513-569-7300), or OSRTI.
INTRODUCTION
Lithium (Li), an alkali metal, exists in two isotopic forms (7Li and 6Li) and is naturally
present in soil and water. Lithium has numerous industrial and commercial uses including as a
cell additive in electrolytic aluminum production, a catalyst of chemical reactors, a component of
fluxes and brazing alloys, a component of batteries, specialized glass and ceramics, and a
sanitizing agent for swimming pools, hot tubs and spas (Leonard et al., 1995; Moore, 1995).
Lithium carbonate and lithium citrate are also used for the therapeutic treatment of psychiatric
disorders, primarily in the acute and long-term maintenance treatment of bipolar mood disorders.
A reference dose (RfD) or reference concentration (RfC) for lithium are not available on
the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) (U.S. EPA, 2007), the Health Effects Assessment
Summary Tables (HEAST) (U.S. EPA, 1997), or the Drinking Water Standards and Health
Advisories list (U.S. EPA, 2004). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Chemical
Assessments and Related Activities (CARA) (U.S. EPA, 1994) lists only Reportable Quantity
(RQ) documents for lithium chromate and lithium hydride; the RQ documents (U.S. EPA, 1983,
1988) for these two compounds state that the data are not sufficient for derivation of an RQ as
there are no subchronic or chronic studies. Neither the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease
and Registry (ATSDR) (2006), the National Toxicology Program (NTP) (2006), the International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (2006), nor the World Health Organization (WHO)
(2006) has produced documents regarding lithium. The following sources were also consulted:
Chemical Hazard Information Profiles (U.S. EPA, 1980), National Occupational Health Survey
of Mining (NIOSH, 1990) and Information Profiles on Potential Occupational Hazards - Classes
(NIOSH, 1978). Literature searches were conducted from 1965 to August 2006 in TOXLINE
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(including NTIS and BIOSIS updates), CANCERLIT, MEDLINE, CCRIS, GENETOX, HSDB,
EMIC/EMICBACK, DART/ETICBACK, RTECS and TSCATS.
REVIEW OF PERTINENT LITERATURE
Human Studies
Oral Exposure
Overview of the Therapeutic Use of Lithium - Lithium carbonate, and more recently,
lithium citrate have been used since 1949 in the treatment of bipolar affective (manic-depressive)
disorder; thus, extensive clinical literature on the beneficial and adverse effects of lithium is
available. Lithium is therapeutically used in the treatment of bipolar affective disorder as a sole
therapy or in combination with other antidepressant drugs and in the treatment of schizophrenia
in combination with anti-psychotic drugs. Although lithium is effective in the treatment of
bipolar affective disorders, adverse effects are associated with therapeutic dose levels, resulting
in a low therapeutic index (e.g., ratio of dose associated with therapeutic efficacy to dose
associated with adverse effects). Thus, lithium is not simply prescribed by dose, but is
monitored based on serum concentrations. For the treatment of bipolar disorder, the desired
therapeutic serum concentrations range from 0.6 to 1.4 mmol Li/L, although concentrations of
0.8-1.0 mmol Li/L are generally accepted as providing optimal therapeutic effects (Physicians
Desk Reference, 2006; Baldessarini and Tarazi, 2001).
Although the precise mechanism of action has not been established, it is unlikely that a
single mechanism of action is responsible for the therapeutic and adverse effects of lithium.
Several mechanisms for the therapeutic effects of lithium have been proposed. Since the
chemical properties of lithium are similar to those of sodium, lithium can be substituted for
sodium in generating action potentials and in some sodium transport processes across
membranes. Lithium also appears to alter neurotransmitters, enhances some actions of serotonin,
has variable effects on norepinephrine, augments the synthesis of acetylcholine and increases
norepinephrine and dopamine turnover. Lithium also alters brain inositol phosphate levels,
affecting second messenger responses for a-adrenergic and muscarinic transmission. A decrease
in functioning brain protein kinases has also been identified as a consistent effect of lithium.
Lithium also interacts with nuclear regulatory factors that affect gene expression (Baldessarini
and Tarazi, 2001).
The potential for lithium to cause toxicity has been of significant concern due to its use
on a maintenance basis for a lifelong disorder; thus, a large body of clinical literature on
lithium-induced toxicity exists, including several reviews (Gitlin, 1999; Berk and Berk, 2003;
Markowitz et al., 2000; Moore, 1995; Mclntyre et al., 2001; Awad et al., 2002; Presne et al.,
2003; Jefferson, 1998). Effects that are associated with therapeutic use of lithium include:
neurological and psychiatric effects (tremor, choreoathetosis, motor hyperactivity, ataxia,
aphasia, fatigue, cognitive impairment); decreased thyroid function; hyperparathyroidism; renal
effects (nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, nephritis, chronic progressive renal disease); edema
(related to sodium retention); cardiovascular effects (T wave flattening); acniform skin eruptions;
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benign leukocytosis; and gastrointestinal effects (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea).
Since all therapeutic serum concentrations are associated with adverse effects, long-term
treatment strategies for individual patients must balance the beneficial effects of lithium therapy
with the risks and severity of toxicity. Although available data are not sufficient to define
dose-response relationships, it is generally accepted that severity of adverse effects is related to
serum lithium levels.
Adverse renal effects associated with lithium therapy have received extensive focus due
to their serious nature and frequency of occurrence. Thus, lithium-induced renal toxicity has
been the subject of numerous clinical and animal studies. The most common adverse renal effect
is nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI), which occurs over the range of therapeutic serum
lithium concentrations (e.g., 0.6-1.4 mmol Li/L). The development of NDI involves lithium-
induced down-regulation of the vasopressin-regulated water channel aquaporin-2, expressed on
the apical plasma membrane of principal cells of the collecting duct (Markowitz et al., 2000).
The consequence of this effect is to reduce the capacity of the kidneys to preserve free water,
resulting in impaired renal concentrating ability and the production of excessively dilute urine.
Clinically, this manifests as polyuria, with secondary thirst, and volume depletion. Although
other mechanisms may also contribute to polyuria, interference with vasopressin-induced
antidiuresis is considered the most important cause (Gitlin, 1999). It has been estimated that
renal concentrating ability is impaired in at least 50% of patients undergoing lithium treatment,
with polyuria and polydipsia in approximately 20% of patients (Presne et al., 2003; Gitlin, 1999;
Mclntyre et al., 2001). In a review of data from several studies published between 1979 and
1986, impairment of concentrating ability was seen in at least 54% of 1105 patients on chronic
lithium therapy, with polyuria observed at serum lithium concentrations ranging from 0.6 to 1.2
mmol/L (Boton et al., 1987). Thus, periodic measurement of serum creatinine, creatinine
clearance, 24-hour urine volume and urine protein has become integral to the management
patients on long-term lithium therapy (Jefferson, 1998).
NDI appears to be reversible early in treatment, but may be progressive during the first
decade, leading to irreversible damage over time (Gitlin, 1999). A small percentage of patients
show progressive renal failure indicated by a pronounced decrease in glomerular filtration rate
(GFR) and renal insufficiency, with little or no proteinuria (Markowitz et al., 2000). Severe
decreases in GFR have resulted in the need for maintenance hemodiaylsis, typically after 10 or
more years of lithium therapy. Results of renal biopsy on patients with chronic renal effects
showed interstitial fibrosis, tubular atrophy, focal sclerosis, acquired renal cystic disease and
cytoplasmic swelling with glycogen deposits in the distal convoluted tubules and collecting ducts
(Markowitz et al., 2000; Gitlin, 1999). Confounding factors (other medical disorders such as
hypertension, heart disease) may contribute to susceptibility and severity of irreversible damage
(Gitlin, 1999).
Studies on Adverse Effects in Patients Treated with Lithium: Renal Effects - The
results of retrospective and prospective studies and findings of case reports summarized below
focus on adverse effects observed in patients maintained on chronic lithium therapy for the
treatment of affective mood disorders. As expected based on the established pharmacological
profile of therapeutic lithium, decreased renal concentrating ability is the most frequently
reported adverse effect, although neurological, dermal, cardiovascular and endocrine effects are
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also observed. Interpretation of results from clinical studies is difficult due to many factors,
including the lack of baseline data prior to lithium use, absence of control groups, presence of
pre-existing renal and other diseases and use of concomitant medications. Furthermore, since
clinicians rely upon serum lithium concentrations, rather than daily doses, to evaluate the
dose-response relationships between lithium treatment, efficacy and adverse effects, daily
lithium doses often are not reported nor were the results of male vs. female dosing reported
separately. However, the clinical literature provides consistent evidence that the kidney is a
primary target organ for lithium in men and women, and supports that adverse renal effects occur
over the range of desired therapeutic serum concentrations (0.6-1.4 mmol Li/L).
In a prospective study, a cohort of 373 patients who started receiving lithium therapy at
various times between 1979 and 1987 were given pre-treatment examinations to establish
baseline levels for renal parameters (Schou and Vestergaard, 1988; Vestergaard and Schou,
1988). Patients were examined once before and on the average 3.3 times during lithium therapy.
Patients who had been treated with lithium prior to entry into the cohort and patients taking
neuroleptic agents during lithium therapy were excluded from analysis. On examination days,
urine was collected every 24 hours and data were disregarded if less than 75% of the daily
lithium dose was recovered. The desamino-8-D-arginine vasopressin (DDAVP) test was used to
determine renal concentrating ability. The mean lithium dose was 23.2 mmol Li/day and the
mean lithium serum concentration was 0.68 mmol/L. Because of a high drop-out rate (for
various reasons), especially among men, and because the dosing durations of the full cohort
ranged from 5 months to 7 years, data from a subcohort of 39 patients who received lithium
therapy continuously for 4 years were compared with the data for the whole cohort to guard
against errors due to selective sample attrition. The ratio of men to women in the whole cohort
and in the subcohort remained constant.
Patients in the whole cohort developed a moderate rise in urine volume and a moderate
fall in renal concentrating ability (Schou and Vestergaard, 1988; Vestergaard and Schou, 1988).
Urine volume increased by 7% (not statistically significant) for the whole cohort and 23% for the
subcohort (p=0.05). For the whole cohort, urine volume was positively correlated with lithium
dosage (r=0.29, p<0.001). Renal concentrating ability fell by 7% (p<0.01) for the whole cohort
and by 10% for the 4-year subcohort (p<0.01). Changes in renal concentrating ability took place
within the first 1-2 years of lithium therapy for members of the whole cohort, with no additional
changes in renal function when treatment duration was extended more than 2 years. There was
no correlation between concentrating ability and lithium dosage in the whole cohort. Glomerular
function, as determined by measurement of serum creatinine concentrations and urine creatinine
concentrations, was not affected by lithium therapy in the whole cohort. In addition, there was
no change in the incidence of proteinuria associated with lithium treatment. Complaints of
increased thirst, frequent urination and nocturia were made more often during lithium therapy
than before lithium therapy in both the cohort and the subcohort. Therefore, the results from the
subcohort support the results from the entire cohort. Assuming that the average body weight was
70 kg, patients were exposed to 2.32 mg Li/kg-day. This study identifies a lowest-observed-
adverse-effect level (LOAEL) of 2.32 mg Li/kg-day for increased urine volume and decreased
urine concentrating ability.
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A group of 53 patients (20 men and 33 women) was examined prior to starting long-term
lithium therapy and again after 4 and 12 months on lithium (Smigan et al., 1984). Twenty-five
patients of this cohort had previously received lithium, but treatment had been withdrawn for
27 months before the start of the present treatment. Over the course of the study, 13-28% of the
53 patients received neuroleptics. Lithium carbonate dosages were not provided, but serum
lithium levels were maintained at approximately 0.6 mmol/L. A clinically significant change in
renal concentrating ability (defined as having a urine osmolality below 600 mOsm/kg water) was
observed in a small group (n=6) of patients after 12 months on lithium treatment. Of these six
patients, five had been treated previously with lithium and had some signs of impaired renal
concentrating ability at the start of the present treatment. Multiple regression analysis
determined that concurrent treatment with neuroleptics did not contribute to the decline of renal
function.
Polyuria and/or decreased urine concentrating ability were found among 112 women and
125 men (average weight, 76.2 kg) exposed to 12-57 mmol/day of lithium (mean dose of
32.6 mmol/day of lithium or 3.0 mg Li/kg-day) for 0.5-17 years (mean duration, 5.2 years) in a
retrospective study by Vestergaard et al. (1979). Serum lithium concentration ranged from 0.2 to
2.0 mmol/L. Baseline renal function prior to lithium therapy was not assessed, since all patients
were on maintenance lithium therapy prior to the start of the study. The majority of patients
were also receiving concomitant therapy with other medications, such as neuroleptics and/or
antidepressants, and 37% the patients received concomitant therapy with hypnotics or
anxiolytics. In a follow-up study, 184 of the original 237 patients were re-examined 2 years later
(Vestergaard and Amdisen, 1981). The 184 patients were divided into two groups; those patients
who continued with lithium (147) and those who discontinued (37). Lithium-treated patients
were compared with 68 manic-depressive patients that were about to receive lithium.
Glomerular function did not change over the 2-year period. In patients who had discontinued
lithium treatment, there was an improvement in renal concentrating ability when compared with
the patients who continued with lithium therapy. However, maximal urine osmolality did not
reach the level found in the control (pre-lithium treatment) group, although the urine volume
approached levels in the control group. There was a further increase in urine volume and
decreased in urine osmolality for those patients that continued with lithium therapy.
In a study involving 116 men and 152 women who took an average of 1322 mg/day of
lithium carbonate (3.57 mg Li/kg-day) for an average period of 37.6 months, maximum
concentrating ability was lower in all patients receiving lithium than in 59 control patients not
receiving lithium (Gelenberg et al., 1987). However, differences did not achieve statistical
significance. A major limitation of this study is that baseline data were not available.
Results of a biopsy study in patients receiving lithium maintenance therapy provide
evidence of lithium-induced histopathological changes to the kidney (Hestbech et al., 1977).
Fourteen manic-depressive patients received an average of 42 mmol Li/day as lithium carbonate
(4.2 mg Li/kg-day) for 1.5-15 years. Serum lithium concentrations ranged from 0.6 to
1.3 mmol/L. Thirteen age-matched patients without renal disease served as the source of kidney
biopsy specimens for control observations. Impaired urine concentrating ability and polyuria
was observed in lithium patients. Histopathological examination of the kidney biopsy samples
revealed a pronounced degree of focal nephron atrophy and/or interstitial fibrosis in 13 of the
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14 patients examined. Semiquantitative assessment of renal lesions revealed significantly greater
degrees of focal cortical fibrosis, diffuse medullary fibrosis, mononuclear cell infiltrates and
distal tubular dilatation in the patients than in the controls. Quantitative assessment revealed
significantly greater percentages of totally sclerotic glomeruli, fibrous cortical tissue and
unidentifiable and atrophic renal tubules in patients than in controls.
Hansen et al. (1979) also reported impaired renal concentrating ability in 14 patients
(7 men and 7 women) treated with 36 mmol/day of lithium (3.6 mg Li/kg-day) for 1.3 to
12	years. Serum lithium concentrations ranged from 1.75 to 4.50 mmol/L. Results of renal
biopsy showed interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy. Baseline levels were not available and
controls were not used. There was a significant negative correlation between the degree of
tubular atrophy and renal concentrating ability.
Walker et al. (1982) examined renal function and biopsy samples in 47 patients (18 men
and 29 women) who were receiving an average of 1250 mg/day of lithium carbonate (3.38 mg
Li/kg-day) for an average of 5 years. The median serum lithium concentration was 0.84 mmol/L.
Thirty-two patients not receiving lithium therapy were used as the controls. Decreased urine
concentrating ability and impaired urinary acidification, indicative of distal nephron dysfunction,
were observed in patients receiving lithium relative to controls. Lithium-treated patients also
exhibited decreased glomerular filtration rate, as measured by significantly increased serum
creatinine, increased P2-microglobulins, and decreased Cr-EDTA clearance, compared to
controls. Histological examination of kidney biopsy samples did not reveal abnormalities.
Hansen and Amdisen (1978) reported effects on the kidneys in a case study of 23 patients
who were exposed to therapeutic doses of 24-56 mmol Li/day (2.4-5.6 mg Li/kg-day) for 6.1-8.5
years. Patients were hospitalized due to severe lithium intoxication. Pre-exposure baseline
levels were not available. Impaired renal concentrating ability was a consistent finding.
Abnormal electroencephalography (EEG) was also reported. There was no relationship between
the severity of symptoms of lithium intoxication and the serum lithium concentration on
admission to the hospital. Many of the patients (22 out of 23) included in the Hansen and
Amdisen (1978) study experienced frank adverse effects, including renal insufficiency in
17 patients, mental and neurological symptoms (decreased alertness or slight apathy)
inl8 patients, muscular rigidity and/or muscular fasciculations in 14 patients, slight ataxia in
6 patients, and stupor and latent convulsive movements in 14 patients. Severely abnormal
electroencephalograms were observed in 19 patients. Two patients died and two patients
developed persisting neurological sequelae.
Studies on Adverse Effects in Patients Treated with Lithium: Other (Non-Renal)
Adverse Effects - Neurological effects, including tremors, are commonly reported in patients
treated with lithium. Neurological effects of lithium were evaluated in 28 patients (15 men and
13	women) with bipolar affective disorder receiving 1012 mg/day of lithium carbonate (2.74
mg/kg-day) for 4.1 years. The mean serum lithium level was 0.68 mmol/L. Although patients
did not develop overt neurological effects, nerve conduction velocities were prolonged (Chang et
al., 1990). Electrodiagnostic tests revealed a slowing of motor and sensory nerve conduction
velocities and prolonged central neural conduction times obtained from somatosensory and
brainstem auditory evoked potentials that correlated with serum lithium levels. Another patient
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developed polyneuropathy after being exposed to 1.62 mg Li/kg-day for an unspecified period
(years) (Tomasina et al., 1990). The patient had a sensorimotor peripheral neuropathy with
mostly axonal degeneration. The patient improved after the lithium therapy was discontinued.
Levine and Puchalski (1990) have also described two cases of pseudotumor cerebri syndrome in
patients that were exposed to 900-1200 mg/day of lithium carbonate (2.43-3.24 mg Li/kg-day)
for 4-8 years. The serum lithium concentration did not exceed 1.0 mmol/L. This syndrome is
characterized by chronic headaches, bilateral papilledema and increased intracranial pressure in
the absence of any localized neurological signs or symptoms.
Hagino et al. (1995) observed adverse effects on 20 children aged four through six
exposed to oral lithium for the treatment of aggressive and/or mood-disordered children. All
children were hospitalized during the course of the study as part of the medical intervention
program. Daily lithium doses were adjusted to maintain serum lithium concentrations between
0.6 and 1.2 mmol/L and ranged from 12.2 to 48.9 mg/kg-day. Patients remained on lithium
therapy for up to 37 days. Adverse effects to the central nervous system (tremor, drowsiness,
ataxia, confusion) were the most commonly observed effects, reported in approximately 60% of
patients. Other effects observed included gastrointestinal effects (nausea, vomiting, abdominal
discomfort) in 25% of patients, renal effects (polyuria) in 10% of patients and blurred vision in
10%) of patients. No adverse effects were observed in the cardiovascular, pulmonary, autonomic,
hematological or integumental systems. The potential contribution of concomitant medications
was not ruled out by the study authors. Sixteen of the 20 children also received one or more
psychoactive medications and six children received antibiotics for infections.
Adverse effects on thyroid function, primarily asymptomatic hypothyroidism, have been
reported in patients treated with lithium. Thyroid effects may be secondary to altered renal
clearance of iodine, rather than to direct effects of lithium on the thyroid (Moore, 1995). A
retrospective study was conducted involving 129 patients (46 men, 83 women) who were on
lithium therapy for 2-180 months and 21 patients who served as controls (Bocchetta et al., 1991).
Most of the patients receiving lithium had previously received or were receiving medication
(antipsychotics and antidepressants) other than lithium. Serum lithium concentrations ranged
between 0.5 and 1.0 mmol/L. Palpable and/or visible goiter was found in 51%> of the patients
receiving lithium (p<0.01), compared with 9.5%> occurrence in the control group. Based on
elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, subclinical hypothyroidism was diagnosed in
19% of the patients on lithium compared with 9.5%> in the control group. There were no
differences in thyroid function tests between patients receiving lithium alone or receiving
additional medication. The researchers noted that lithium-induced subclinical hypothyroidism
may be transient and recommended that repeated determinations of TSH is required. Joffe et al.
(1988) reported that 20%> of the 42 patients receiving lithium carbonate therapy for 3 months
required thyroid replacement or had evidence of subclinical hypothyroidism. Cowdry et al.
(1983) also reported that 12 of 24 patients who were on lithium therapy for 12 months developed
hypothyroidism. Only those patients with a median serum lithium concentration of 0.6 mmol/L
were used in the study. When 22 women received lithium therapeutically for more than 2 years,
there was evidence of subclinical hypothyroidism in 32%> of these patients (Bartalena et al.,
1990).
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Hyperparathyroidism with progressive hypercalcemia was reported to occur in a patient
who received lithium for 6 years (Graze, 1981). The daily dosage was not reported by the
author. The patient had progressive hypercalcemia for the duration of the therapy and a
parathyroid adenoma.
Raoof et al. (1989) demonstrated a concentration-dependent inhibition by lithium
chloride on human sperm motility in vitro at semen concentrations that would be expected from
therapeutic doses of lithium. However, Raboch et al. (1981) found no abnormality in sperm
count, motility or morphology in semen samples obtained from 14 patients that were using
lithium for an average of 4.1 years. The mean serum lithium level was 0.64 mmol/L and the
mean lithium level in the semen was 1.48 mmol/L.
A group of 16 men and 4 women were treated with 1008 mg/day of lithium carbonate
(2.72 mg Li/kg-day) as either a once-daily dose or as a divided twice-daily dose for an average of
4.4 years (Abraham et al., 1992). An elevated white cell count, increased serum phosphate, and
elevated serum ionized calcium were observed in the study group receiving the once-daily
lithium treatment. These effects were not seen in the study group that received lithium twice a
day. No evidence of polyuria was observed in either group and no significant differences were
observed between the two treatment regimens with respect to mental status, serum lithium or
el ectrocardi ogram s.
Adverse effects on cardiac conductivity, including sinoatrial block, sinus bradycardia and
junctional escape rhythm, have been reported in patients taking therapeutic lithium (Moore,
1995). A patient who received 600 mg/day of lithium carbonate (1.62 mg Li/kg-day) for
4 months (serum lithium concentration 1.3-2.0 mmol/L) developed symptomatic sinus node
dysfunction, which disappeared after discontinuation of lithium therapy (Riccioni et al., 1983).
Roose et al. (1979) also reported cardiac sinus node dysfunction during lithium treatment in
several patients exposed to at least 8.6 mg/kg-day of lithium for 10 years.
Studies on Developmental Effects of Lithium Treatment During Pregnancy - The
potential for lithium-induced developmental effects was the subject of an assessment conducted
by Moore and an Institute for Evaluating Health Risks (IEHR) Expert Scientific Committee
(Moore, 1995). Data from 139 references, including registries, prospective studies and case
histories were reviewed. This assessment determined that sufficient evidence is available to
conclude that therapeutic use of lithium causes developmental effects in offspring when maternal
serum lithium concentrations are within the therapeutic range. Review of developmental effects
reported in birth registries revealed reports of cardiovascular defects associated with lithium
treatment. Reports of Ebstein's anomaly (a structural defect in which there is a downward
displacement of the trisucpid valve into the right ventricle, and valvular redundancy with
adherence of some cusps to the right ventricular wall; affected individuals may have right
ventricular failure or conduction abnormalities), in particular, were in "substantial excess among
all malformations." Although the magnitude of the increase could not be determined from birth
registry reports, data indicate that first-trimester lithium exposure increases the risk of cardiac
malformations. Other studies reviewed by Moore (1995) also report an association between
maternal lithium treatment and cardiovascular defects in offspring. The literature reviewed also
suggests a possible association between maternal lithium treatment and neonatal mortality.
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There are also reports that newborn infants of mothers on lithium therapy may exhibit symptoms
of acute lithium toxicity such as cyanosis, hypotonia and cardiac toxicity. However, the
available data regarding developmental effects in humans are limited by insufficient
dose-response information.
Jacobson et al. (1992) prospectively recruited and followed 148 women using lithium
during the first trimester of pregnancy. Each study patient was matched with a woman (control)
of similar age (within 2 years). The mean lithium dose was 927 mg/day of lithium carbonate
(2.5 mg Li/kg-day); the authors did not report serum lithium concentrations. No significant
differences between the exposed group and the controls were observed for congenital defects
(3% in lithium patients and 2% in controls) and spontaneous abortions (9% in lithium patients
and 8% in controls). Kallen and Tandberg (1983) identified a cohort of 350 mothers who were
treated with lithium during their pregnancy. The authors reported that the total delivery outcome
was poorer than expected, with high perinatal death and malformation rates compared to the
national average expected rates in Sweden. Congenital heart defects occurred in 6 cases
compared with the national expected number of 2.1 cases (p<0.05). However, the sample size
was relatively small and the difference between delivery outcome in women on lithium and in
women on other psychotropic drugs was not statistically significant. Weinstein and Goldfield
(1975) reviewed 143 cases of lithium use during pregnancy collected by the Register of Lithium
Babies. There were 13 malformed infants (9.1%) among the 143 in the register. Of these
13 malformed infants, 11 were born with significant malformations of the cardiovascular system.
As was the case with the previous study, the daily lithium dosage was not reported and at least
6 of the 13 mothers who delivered malformed babies were exposed to other medications in
addition to lithium. Krause et al. (1990) reported a case of severe polyhydramnios that
developed from the 26th week of gestation. Except for weeks 6-13 of gestation, the mother was
maintained on lithium (serum level, 0.7 mmol/L) prior to the diagnosis. Ang et al. (1990)
described a similar case report in a woman who was exposed to lithium during pregnancy. The
infant displayed symptoms of lithium toxicity, including polyuria.
Studies on the Carcinogenic Potential of Therapeutic Lithium - Controlled studies on
the potential of therapeutic lithium to induce cancer have not been reported. Although a few
case studies have reported associations between lithium therapy and recurrence of cancer, data
are inadequate to establish any association between lithium and the development or recurrence of
cancer in humans. Furthermore, given that the widespread clinical use of lithium as a long-term
maintenance treatment in patients with affective mood disorders has not revealed an increased
incidence or recurrence of cancer, it is unlikely that lithium is carcinogenic in humans.
Nonetheless, the few studies examining potential carcinogenic effects of lithium are briefly
reviewed below.
Several case reports that suggest an association of lithium-induced leukocytosis with
induction or reinduction of acute and chronic leukemia. Orr and McKerna (1979) reported the
recurrence of acute monocytic leukemia in a 64-year-old woman who was previously in
remission. This patient received 600 mg/day of lithium carbonate for 7 weeks before the
leukemic relapse occurred. Nielsen (1980) reported the development of acute myeloid leukemia
in one male and one female patient administered lithium for a duration of 1 and 12 years,
respectively. Jim (1980) reported the occurrence of chronic monocytic leukemia in a patient
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who received 900 mg/day of lithium carbonate for 11 months prior to the diagnosis of leukemia.
A 37-year-old woman developed chronic granulocytic leukemia after receiving 600 mg of
lithium carbonate 3 times/day for 5 years (Schottlander et al., 1980).
Contrary to anecdotal reports that attempt to associate an increased risk of leukemia with
lithium intake, the limited epidemiological information suggests no increased risk. Resek and
Olivieri (1983) examined the relationship between leukemia and chronic lithium therapy during
1971-1980 by examining hospital records of 187 leukemia patients to determine whether these
patients were receiving lithium medication prior to the their illness. Only 7% of these patients
had received psychiatric services and in all cases, these patients were not treated with lithium.
The authors reported that there was no association between lithium therapy and leukemia. In a
14-year ecological study, one human population in El Paso exposed to lithium via drinking water
(66 (J,g/L) was compared with another human population in Dallas-Fort Worth that was not
exposed to lithium in drinking water (Frenkel and Herbert, 1974). There was no difference in the
incidence of chronic or acute granulocytic leukemia in the two populations.
Only two separate cases have been reported in the literature of the possible association of
lithium with cancers other than leukemia. Brownlie et al. (1980) reported the occurrence of
papillary cell carcinoma of the thyroid in a 55-year-old woman after 3.5 years of lithium therapy.
McHenry et al. (1990) also reported three cases of thyroid carcinoma occurring in association
with chronic (9 years) lithium therapy.
Studies of Adverse Effects of Lithium in Healthy Volunteers - The effect of lithium therapy
on short- and long-term memory was assessed in healthy volunteers exposed to daily oral lithium
for 3 weeks (Stip et al., 2000). Groups of 15 healthy men and women were randomized into
placebo or lithium treatment groups. Subjects in the lithium group were administered lithium
twice daily at doses ranging from 1050 to 1950 mg/day (197 to 366 mg Li/day) in order to
achieve a mean serum lithium concentration of 0.8 mmol/L. The form of the lithium was
unstated but the dose is consistent with lithium carbonate. Actual serum lithium concentrations
were not reported. Cognitive performance (attention and memory) was assessed in each subject
at 3 times during the study: baseline, after 3 weeks of treatment and 2 weeks after
discontinuation of treatment. After 3 weeks of treatment, performance scores for short-term
memory tasks (assessed using an auditory digit span) for subjects taking lithium were
significantly lower (p<0.03) compared to placebo. Results of long-term memory assessments
(using recall tests) showed adverse effects in lithium-treated subjects compared to controls.
Performance on short- and long-term memory tests improved 2 weeks after discontinuation of
treatment. Results indicate that lithium produces effects in the central nervous system in healthy
subjects at exposure levels corresponding to the target therapeutic serum concentrations. The
mean dose, 1569 mg/day (295 mg Li/day) was a LOAEL in this study.
Effects on the hemopoeitic system and clotting have also been reported in healthy
volunteers exposed to lithium (Stein et al., 1981). Groups of at least five non-psychiatric
volunteers received 900 mg/day lithium carbonate (2.43 mg Li/kg-day). Granulocyte count,
expressed as a percent of baseline, was significantly increased by 25% (p<0.05), 32% (p<0.001),
and 42%) (p<0.001) after 1, 2 and 3 weeks of exposure. Volunteers administered 0, 300, 600,
900, 1200 or 1500 mg/day of lithium carbonate (0, 0.8, 1.62, 2.43, 3.24 or 4.05 mg Li/kg-day)
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orally for 1 week developed increased granulocytosis at doses > 2.43 mg Li/kg-day. Granulocyte
count was increased by 26, 55 and 43% of baseline values in the 2.43, 3.24 and 4.05 mg Li/kg-
day groups, respectively. Decreased bleeding times were also observed in the 3.24 and 4.05 mg
Li/kg-day dose groups, although there was no apparent treatment effect on platelet count. Serum
lithium concentrations were not reported.
The use of lithium as a therapeutic agent to reverse chemotherapy-induced neutropenia
and thrombocytopenia has been explored in humans, with studies providing conflicting results.
Richmon et al. (1984) reported an increase in neutrophil and thrombocyte production in five
cancer patients who received 900 mg/day of lithium carbonate (169 mg Li/day) for an
unspecified duration. Twenty-two patients with oligoblastic leukemia receiving 900 mg/day of
lithium carbonate for an unspecified time remained cytopenic without evidence of
lithium-induced bone marrow proliferation (Barlogie et al., 1984). In another study, Friedenberg
and Marx (1980) reported that lithium increased the granulocyte count in eight healthy
volunteers who had received 900 mg/day of lithium carbonate for 1 week. Despite the observed
increase in granulocyte number, there was a reduction in bactericidal capacity (function) of
granulocytes in these individuals.
Inhalation Exposure
No studies on the effects of inhaled lithium in humans were identified.
Animal Studies
Oral Exposure
Subchronic and chronic oral exposure studies evaluating comprehensive toxicity
endpoints in laboratory animals are not available. Few animal studies have investigated the
adverse effects of chronic oral exposure to lithium. The primary purpose of animal studies has
been to evaluate specific adverse effects associated with the therapeutic serum lithium
concentration range, with most studies focusing on lithium-induced renal toxicity. The available
data in animals provide supporting evidence that subchronic and chronic oral exposure to lithium
induces similar adverse effects as those associated with the therapeutic use of lithium in patients.
However, insufficient data are available to determine dose-response relationships for adverse
effects.
Cancer Bioassays - No long-term animal bioassays examining the carcinogenicity of
lithium were identified. An abstract by Prolov and Pliss (1991) reported that lithium carbonate
promoted bladder carcinogenesis in rats previously exposed to N-buty-N-(4-hydroxybutyl)-
nitrosamine; no additional publications of this finding were identified. Although Hori and Oka
(1979) stimulated cell multiplication of mammary gland explants with lithium in C3H/HeN
virgin female mice, Ziche et al. (1980) were unable to demonstrate any growth promoting effect
of lithium on primary carcinomas induced by two chemical carcinogens
(7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene and N-nitrosomethylurea) in Sprague-Dawley and Buffalo/N
female rats.
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Adverse Renal Effects - Chronic renal failure was induced in male and female Wistar
rats fed diets containing 0 or 40 mmol lithium chloride/kg diet (0 or 3.58 mg Li/kg-day) from
birth for 55 to 56 weeks (Christensen and Ottosen, 1986). Plasma lithium concentration ranged
from 0.6 to 0.7 mmol/L after 16 weeks and from 1.0 to 1.1 mmol/L after 48 weeks of treatment.
Mortality was 51% in lithium-treated rats compared to only 6% in control rats. Mean plasma
urea concentration was elevated by 74% after 16 weeks and 175% after 48 weeks, compared to
controls. After 55 weeks of treatment, inulin clearance was reduced by 62% and lithium
clearance was reduced by 39% compared to controls. Lithium-treated rats also had polyuria and
diminished renal concentrating ability (assessed by failure to respond to exogenous vasopressin).
No treatment-related effects on systolic or diastolic blood pressure were observed.
Morphological examination of the kidneys of lithium-treated rats revealed large cortical cysts,
dilated distal tubules and collecting ducts, and widespread interstitial fibrosis. Glomerular
volume and proximal tubular mass were significantly reduced. Comprehensive toxicity
endpoints were not examined in this study. A LOAEL of 3.58 mg Li/kg-day for adverse renal
effects was identified; a NOAEL was not established.
Two groups of six male Wistar SPF rats were exposed to a diet containing 0 or 40 mmol
LiCl/kg diet (0 or 4.5 mg Li/kg-day) for 3 weeks and then 0 or 60 mmol LiCl/kg (0 or 6.7 mg
Li/kg-day) for an additional 18 weeks (Christensen et al., 1982). The time-weighted average
daily dose was 6.4 mg Li/kg-day, with mean serum lithium concentrations of 0.7-0.8 mmol/L.
Rats exposed to lithium developed polyuria and lowered renal concentrating ability after 2 weeks
of exposure to diets containing lithium. Focal microscopic changes in distal convoluted tubules
and collecting ducts were also observed. Focal basal vacuolization of the cytoplasm was
observed after 2-4 weeks of lithium exposure. After 8 weeks of treatment, all rats had severe
nuclear polymorphism, nuclear hyperchromasia and cellular polymorphism with tubular giant
cells. In addition to these cellular changes, dilatations of the tubular lumen and focal atrophy of
the tubular cells were observed in rats exposed to lithium for 21 weeks. Renal concentrating
ability was significantly decreased after 2 weeks of dietary exposure. After lithium was
withdrawn for 8 weeks, structural changes persisted, but concentrating ability was normalized.
Based on their experimental findings, the authors concluded that the use of urinary concentrating
ability as an index of lithium-induced structural damage may underestimate lithium-induced
effects on the kidney. A LOAEL of 4.5 mg Li/kg-day for adverse renal effects observed after 2
weeks of treatment was identified; a NOAEL was not established.
Polyuria and vasopressin-resistant diabetes insipidus developed within 3 weeks of
exposure to dietary lithium (Kling et al., 1984). Two groups of 12 male Wistar rats were
exposed to 0 or 90 mmol/kg diet of lithium carbonate (11.6 mg Li/kg-day) for 126 days. Serum
lithium concentration was maintained at 0.8 mmol/L. Early lesions were associated with the
cortical collecting tubules and distal tubules, extending into the medullary collecting tubules by
week 3 of treatment. There were alterations in nuclear size and shape and cytoplasmic
basophilia of tubular cells, focal dilation and thinning of the tubular epithelium, and occasional
sloughing of cells into the tubular lumen. In this study, early tubular lesions correlated with the
polyuria. However, polyuria remained constant while morphological changes deteriorated for
several more weeks of lithium exposure. A LOAEL of 11.6 mg Li/kg-day for adverse renal
effects was identified; a NOAEL was not established.
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Two groups of seven male Wistar rats were exposed to a control diets or a diet containing
lithium for 112 days (Marcussen et al., 1969). Due to poor reporting of methods and results, the
concentration of lithium in the diet or daily dose of lithium could not be determined. Rats
exposed to lithium developed uremia and reduced body weight. All kidneys were polycystic in
the cortical areas, and distal tubules and cortical collecting ducts were dilated. Severe fibrosis
was observed in the interstitial space. Tubular glomeruli (67%) and some hypertrophic
glomeruli were also observed. The hypertrophic glomeruli did not compensate adequately for
other impaired glomerular function, as indicated by an overall decrease in GFR.
Other (Non-Renal) Adverse Effects - Reductions in body weights were observed in rats
exposed to dietary lithium (Ehlers and Koob, 1985). Twenty-nine male Wistar rats were exposed
to 0, 30 or 40 mmol Li/kg diet (0, 19 or 26 mg Li/kg-day) for 56 days. In the 40 mmol Li/kg diet
group, body weight was reduced by 37% (p<0.001). A significant increase (p<0.05) in brain
theta wave activity in the 6-8 Hz range in all lithium-treated animals was also observed. A
LOAEL of 19 mg Li/kg-day for adverse effects to the central nervous system was identified; a
NOAEL was not established.
The effect of dietary lithium on thyroid function was examined in two groups of 10 male
Wistar rats exposed to 0 or 1100 mg lithium carbonate/kg diet (0 or 20 mg Li/kg-day) for
120 days (Dhawan et al., 1985). Serum lithium levels ranged from 0.44 to 0.65 mmol/L. There
was a significant decrease (p<0.01) in circulating levels of T4 and T3 after 1 month of exposure
to lithium. There was also a marked decrease (p<0.001) in thyroid hormone levels after
4 months of lithium treatment. A LOAEL of 20 mg Li/kg-day for adverse thyroid effects was
identified; a NOAEL was not established. Etling et al. (1987) investigated the effect of lithium
on thyroid hormone levels in rats exposed to 0, 300 or 600 mg lithium carbonate/L in drinking
water (0, 12.8 or 25.6 mg Li/kg-day) for 5 weeks. Decreases in serum T3 and T4 were observed
only in the 600 mg/L group. A NOAEL and LOAEL of 12.8 and 25.6 mg Li/kg-day,
respectively, for adverse thyroid effects were identified.
The effect of 90-day dietary exposure to lithium on male reproductive organs was
evaluated by Thakur et al. (2003). Groups of 20 sexually mature Wistar rats were exposed to
lithium carbonate at dietary concentrations of 0, 500, 800 or 1100 mg/kg diet for 90 days
(equivalent to 0, 6.6, 10.6 or 14.2 mg Li/kg body weight-day). Serum lithium concentrations
were not reported. Assessments included weight of reproductive organs, histopathology of testis,
epididymis, seminal vesicle, and prostate, testicular interstitial fluid volume, testosterone level,
sperm morphology and fertility index. Weights of the testes and epididymis, sperm number from
cauda epididymis, daily sperm production, serum testosterone and interstitial fluid volume were
significantly reduced in the mid- and high-dose groups, compared to controls. Seminal vesicle
and prostate secretions were completely blocked in the mid- and high-dose groups. The
percentage of abnormal sperm was significantly increased in all lithium treatment groups.
Histopathological assessments revealed degeneration of spermatogenic cells and vacuolization of
Sertoli cell cytoplasm in the high-dose treatment groups. A LOAEL of 6.6 mg Li/kg body
weight-day for increased percentage of abnormal sperm was identified; a NOAEL was not
established.
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Sharma and Iqbal (2005) evaluated the effects of oral exposure of male Wistar rats to
lithium nitrate for 7 weeks. Groups of 12 rats were exposed to 0 or 20 mg Li/kg body weight by
gavage on alternate days (10 mg Li/kg-day) for 7 weeks and examined for effects on blood
chemistry and hematology at the end of the treatment period. Serum lithium concentration was
not reported. Numerous blood chemistry and hematology parameters were significantly different
from controls: decreased hemoglobin and erythrocyte count, elevated white cell count, elevated
erythrocyte sedimentation rate, elevated glucose, decreased protein and elevated blood urea
nitrogen (BUN), calcium and phosphorous. Histopathological effects observed in the kidney
included ruptured epithelial lining of the proximal and distal tubules of the medulla, renal tubular
necrosis, thickened capsular wall of the glomerulus and cytoplasmic vacuolization in the
corticomedullary region. Comprehensive toxicity endpoints were not examined in this study. A
LOAEL of 10 mg Li/kg body weight for hematological and renal effects was identified; a
NOAEL was not established.
Developmental Effects - The review by Moore and an IEHR Expert Scientific
Committee (Moore, 1995) on lithium-induced developmental effects included available data
from studies in animals using a variety of experimental designs. The data in animals are of
limited usefulness to providing a comprehensive picture of lithium-induced developmental
effects because of limitations of available studies. Issues with some of the studies include small
number of animals, inability to ascertain litter incidence, inadequate reporting, administration of
only a single dose, and failure to report or describe chemical characteristics of test materials.
Despite these limitations, sufficient data are available to suggest that prenatal developmental
toxicity can occur in studies with rats and mice in which lithium is administered during
pregnancy and fetuses are examined just before birth. Doses associated with adverse
developmental effects ranged from 2.71 to 12.67 mmol/kg body weight-day. Evidence of
maternal toxicity was often present. Specific cardiac developmental effects have not been
reported in animal studies; however, it does not appear that rigorous assessments of cardiac
morphology have been conducted. Results of selected animal developmental studies are briefly
summarized below.
Hoberman et al. (1990) evaluated the developmental effects of lithium hypochlorite
administered by gavage once daily to groups of 25 Sprague-Dawley rats on days 6 through 15 of
gestation at dosages 0 (vehicle), 10, 50, 100 or 500 mg/kg-day (0, 0.4, 2.1, 4.2 or 21 mg
Li/kg-day). Six of the 25 rats in the 500 mg/kg-day group died between days 12 and 20 of
gestation. Decreased fetal body weight, wavy ribs and delayed ossification of the thoracic
vertebrae (bifid centra), forepaw and hindpaw phalanges, and metatarsal and metacarpal bones
were observed in the offspring of the highest exposure group. Maternal NOAEL and the
developmental NOAEL for lithium hypochlorite were determined by the authors to be
100 mg/kg-day of lithium hypochlorite (4.2 mg Li/kg-day). The LOAEL for developmental
toxicity is 500 mg/kg-day (21 mg Li/kg-day) and the maternal frank effect level (FEL) is
500 mg/kg-day (21 mg/kg-day).
Twenty albino Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to 0 or 100 mg/kg-day (0 or 18.8 mg
Li/kg-day) lithium carbonate on days 16 through 20 of gestation (Fritz, 1988). Signs of maternal
toxicity, including reduced weight gain and feed consumption, polyuria and polydipsia, were
observed. Enlarged renal pelvises were observed in 50% of the fetuses in the lithium-exposed
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group. Exposure of rats to a lower daily dose of lithium carbonate (11.3 mg Li/kg-day) on
gestational days 16 through 20 induced similar maternal effects and some prenatal mortality;
however, no signs of impaired renal development for the young offspring that survived were
observed. A LOAEL of 11.3 mg Li/kg body weight for maternal effects was identified; a
NOAEL was not established. For fetal effects, NOAEL and LOAEL values were identified as
11.3 and 18.8 mg Li/kg-day, respectively.
Developmental toxicity was evaluated in the offspring of 44 pregnant Wistar rats exposed
to 0, 50 or 100 mg/kg-day of lithium carbonate (equivalent to 0, 9.5 or 19 mg Li/kg-day) by oral
gavage on gestational days 6 through 15 (Marethe and Thomas, 1986). Reduction in the number
of implantations, number of live fetuses and fetal body weights and a higher number of
resorptions were reported in the 100 mg/kg-day group. A developmental NOAEL for lithium
carbonate is 50 mg/kg-day (9.5 mg Li/kg-day) and a LOAEL of 100 mg/kg-day (19 mg
Li/kg-day) was determined.
Statistically significant reductions in total body weights of the fetus and the fetal length
were observed in the offspring of albino rats exposed to 7 mg/kg-day of lithium carbonate
(1.3 mg Li/kg-day) for the first 10 days of gestation (Sharma and Rawat, 1986). The authors did
not report the number of animals used in the study, but rather the number of abnormal
developmental observations and expressed these as a percentage of control. The authors also
reported a high incidence of cleft palate abnormalities (46%), fetal brain liquification (46%),
hepatomegaly (46%) and non-ossification of upper and lower digits (30 and 37%, respectively).
Lower incidences of cardiomegaly (3%) and hydronephrosis (3%) were observed. A LOAEL of
1.3 mg Li/kg body weight for adverse developmental effects was identified; a NOAEL was not
established.
Groups of 12 female Sprague-Dawley rats were fed 0 or 1000 ppm lithium carbonate
(0 or 18.5 mg Li/kg-day) in the diet throughout gestation (Ibrahim and Canolty, 1990).
Following parturition, the dams were exposed to the same concentration of lithium and were also
allowed to nurse the pups for an additional 21 days. Dietary lithium resulted in decreased
growth in both the dams and the offspring, as well as increased mortality of the offspring. Litter
size was decreased 25% and mean pup weight was decreased by 10%. The highest mortality was
observed in the group of pups that were exposed to lithium during both gestation and lactation.
Gross malformations were not observed in the newborn animals. A LOAEL of 18.5 mg Li/kg
body weight for adverse developmental effects was identified; a NOAEL was not established.
Groups of three to six mice (HmM/ICR strain) were exposed to 0, 200 or 465 mg/kg-day
of lithium carbonate (0, 37.8 or 87.9 mg Li/kg-day) on gestational days 6 through 15 (Szabo,
1970). The human equivalent dose for mice, based on lithium plasma levels of 0.6-1.6 mmol/L,
was calculated by the authors as 465 mg/kg-day. The highest dose, 465 mg/kg-day, caused an
increased incidence of maternal (37%) and fetal (32%) deaths. Nineteen percent of the surviving
fetuses had cleft palate. The 200 mg/kg-day dose (37 mg Li/kg-day) did not cause maternal or
fetal deaths; the incidence of cleft palate in fetuses was 0.4%, which was not statistically
significantly elevated relative to controls. Cleft palate was not observed in any of the 181 fetuses
in the control group. NOAEL and LOAEL values for maternal effects and developmental effects
were identified as 37.8 and 87.9 mg Li/kg-day, respectively.
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Inhalation Exposure
Only three studies that evaluated the effect of inhaled lithium in animals were identified
(Johansson et al., 1988; Greenspan et al., 1986; Rebar et al., 1986). Greenspan et al. (1986)
exposed groups of eight male and eight female F344/Lov rats to an aerosol mixture containing
lithium carbonate (80%) and lithium hydroxide (20%) at concentrations of 0, 620, 1400, 2300 or
2600 mg Li/m3 once for 4 hours (Greenspan et al., 1986). The 14-day LC50 values were
estimated to be 1700 mg Li/m3 for the males and 2000 mg Li/m3 for the females from the single
exposure. No clinical signs of toxicity were observed in animals exposed to 620 mg Li/m3. At
concentrations > 1400 mg/m3, signs of acute effects on the respiratory system included
respiratory distress and bronchospasms. At necropsy, severe congestion of the lungs was
observed in 14 out of the 16 animals in the two highest exposure groups. Three of 16 animals at
1400 mg Li/m3 showed congestion in the lungs. Histopathologic lesions in the respiratory tract
were seen in the > 1400 mg/m3 groups, and were found only in animals dying within 12 days of
exposure. Lesions were characterized as necrotizing rhinitis, necrotizing laryngitis and
secondary suppurative bronchiolitis and bronchopneumonia. There was congestion of the
thymus and tracheobronchial lymph nodes in almost half of the animals exposed to lithium
aerosols. Similar observations were reported by Rebar et al. (1986) in groups of eight male and
eight female rats that were exposed to an aerosol mixture of lithium monoxide and lithium
hydroxide at concentrations of 0, 570, 840, 1200 or 1500 mg Li/m3 for 4 hours. The 14-day LC50
value was 940 mg/m3. In this same study, the 14-day LC50 value for a 4-hour exposure to an
aerosol containing only lithium hydroxide was 960 mg Li/m3. Clinical signs and pathological
changes were similar to those described in the Greenspan et al. (1986) study. Exposure to the
lithium hydroxide/lithium monoxide aerosol mixture at concentrations of 570 Li mg/m3 and
greater resulted in upper respiratory tract and pulmonary lesions.
No adverse respiratory effect were observed in groups of eight male rabbits exposed to
aerosols of 0, 0.1 or 0.32 mg Li/m3 as lithium chloride for 6 hours/day, 5 days/week for
4-8 weeks (Johansson et al., 1988). Inhalation of lithium chloride produced no adverse effects
on lung morphology or phospholipid content. The number of alveolar macrophages in lithium-
treated animals was not different compared to controls.
Supporting Studies
Toxicokinetic
The clinical pharmacokinetics of lithium has been extensively studied. Reviews and
clinical pharmacology text books provide summaries of the pharmacokinetic profile of
therapeutic lithium (Ward et al., 1994; Baldessarini and Tarazi, 2001; Potter and Hollister, 2001).
The bioavailability of oral lithium preparations ranges from 80 to 100%, although it is generally
accepted that the oral bioavailability of lithium is 100%. Peak plasma concentrations are
typically reached within 2 hours of administration of lithium. Lithium does not bind to plasma
proteins. The volume of distribution of lithium is calculated as 0.66 L/kg. Although lithium is
distributed into total body water, lithium distribution is not uniform in all tissue compartments.
As an element, lithium is not metabolized and is excreted intact, primarily by the kidney;
elimination through sweat, saliva and feces is negligible. Approximately 80% of the filtered load
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of lithium is reabsorbed by the kidney and elimination correlates with renal function. Excretion
follows first-order kinetics, with an average half-life of 22 hours and an average clearance of
0.35 mL/min-kg (0.5 L/day-kg).
Genotoxicity
Moore (1995) reviewed genotoxicity data as part of their assessment of the
developmental effects of lithium and concluded that there is no evidence demonstrating genetic
toxicity of lithium in bacterial or in vitro mammalian test systems. Garson et al. (1981) reported
no increase in the occurrence of chromosome breaks in 23 human subjects under continuous
lithium treatment for a period of 1-8 years when compared with 19 healthy age-matched
controls. Lithium hypochlorite was not mutagenic in the Ames test nor did it induce DNA
damage in the unscheduled DNA synthesis assay using rat primary hepatocytes or increase
chromosome aberrations when tested orally in rats at maximally tolerated doses (Weiner et al.,
1990).
DERIVATION OF PROVISIONAL SUBCHRONIC AND CHRONIC RfD
VALUES FOR LITHIUM
The use of lithium as a long-term maintenance therapy in the treatment of bipolar
affective disorders has led to an extensive body of literature on the adverse effects associated
with oral lithium therapy. Adverse effects, which are observed in several organs and systems,
are associated with the entire target therapeutic serum lithium concentration range, leading to
treatment strategies based on a risk-benefit assessment for individual patients. The available
clinical data identify the lower bound of the therapeutic serum lithium concentration range
(0.6 mmol/L) as a LOAEL; the clinical literature does not identify aNOAEL for adverse effects
associated with therapeutic lithium. Data reported in humans studies are not sufficient to define
the relationship between serum lithium concentrations and the development or severity of
adverse effects, although it is generally accepted that the severity of adverse effects is related to
serum lithium levels. Given the lack of adequate dose-response data, a single critical effect
cannot be identified for lithium. Occupational and environmental oral exposure studies in
humans are not available.
Adverse renal effects associated with lithium therapy have received extensive focus due
to their serious nature and frequency of occurrence. The most common adverse renal effect is
impaired renal concentrating ability and the production of excessively dilute urine. Clinically,
this manifests as polyuria, with secondary thirst, and volume depletion. The onset of impaired
renal concentrating capacity typically is within the first 2 years of treatment. Although altered
renal function appears to be reversible early in treatment, it may be progressive during the first
decade of lithium treatment, leading to irreversible damage over time.
Lithium therapy produces side effects in a number of organs and systems other than the
kidney. The most frequent neurologic side effects are lethargy, fatigue, weakness, tremor and
cognitive impairment. Endocrine glands such as the thyroid and parathyroid can also be
affected. Although serious cardiovascular effects are rare, they do occur, the most common
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being changes in the EKG. Gastrointestinal side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and
abdominal cramping. The most frequently observed hematological reaction is a benign
leukocytosis. Developmental effects, primarily involving the heart, undoubtedly represent the
most serious type of unwanted effects.
The available animal data provide supportive evidence that lithium produces adverse
effects in several organs and systems at exposure levels that result in serum lithium
concentrations in same range as that targeted for therapeutic use in humans. However, available
studies do not evaluate comprehensive toxicity endpoints or identify a NOAEL for adverse
effects. Thus, although results of toxicity studies in animals are consistent with the adverse
effects profile in humans exposed to therapeutic lithium, data are not suitable as the basis for the
provisional sub chronic and chronic RfD.
The lower bound of the therapeutic serum lithium concentration range of 0.6 mmol/L is
selected as the basis for derivation for the provisional RfD and subchronic RfD (p-RfD; p-sRfD).
Given that the adverse effects profile of therapeutic lithium is similar for patients on short- and
long-term lithium therapy, an RfD based on the LOAEL of 0.6 mmol Li/L is applicable for
subchronic and chronic exposures. Based on the pharmacokinetic considerations detailed below,
to achieve a serum lithium concentration of 0.6 mmol Li/L, the daily ingestion of lithium by a
70-kg individual is calculated as approximately 1.8 mg Li/kg-day.
At steady state,
/
where D is the dose (mg/kg-day), Cp is the plasma concentration (mg/L), CI is the plasma
clearance (L/kg-day) and f is the fraction of the dose absorbed. Assuming values of 0.5 L/kg-day
for CI and 1 for f (Baldessarini and Tarazi, 2001), a steady-state plasma concentration of
0.6 mmol/L (4.2 mg Li/L) corresponds to a daily dose of 2.1 mg Li/kg-day.
The provisional subchronic and chronic RfD for lithium was derived from the LOAEL of
2.1 mg/kg-day for adverse effects in several organs and systems. Dividing the LOAEL of
2.1 mg/kg-day by an uncertainty factor of 1000 yields a subchronic and chronic p-RfD of 0.002
mg/kg-day or 2 jug/kg-day
p-RfD = LOAEL -h UF
= 2.1 mg/kg-day ^ 1000
= 0.002 mg/kg-day or 2 |ig/kg-day
The composite uncertainty (UF) of 1000 includes a factor of 10 to extrapolate from a
LOAEL to a NOAEL, a factor of 10 to protect susceptible individuals and a factor of 10 to
account for database insufficiencies as follows:
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	A default 10-fold UF for extrapolation from a LOAEL to a NOAEL was used because
the lower bound of the therapeutic serum lithium range is associated with the
development of adverse effects in several organs and systems; a NOAEL for adverse
effects of therapeutic lithium has not been established in the clinical or animal literature.
	A default 10-fold UF was used to account for potentially susceptible individuals in the
absence of quantitative information on the variability of response to lithium in the human
population. Since lithium adversely affects several organs and systems, numerous
pre-existing disease states (e.g., renal disease, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disease)
may increase susceptibility to lithium.
	A UF of 10 was applied for database uncertainties. The renal effects of lithium have
been extensively studied in humans and animals. However, much less information is
available on the effects of lithium in other systems, including the cardiovascular,
neurological and endocrine systems, and subchronic and chronic exposure studies in
animals assessing comprehensive endpoints are not available. Furthermore, although
lithium appears to produce developmental effects in humans, the database lacks
well-controlled epidemiology studies and multi-generation reproduction studies in
animals.
A wide range of estimates for daily dietary intake of lithium has been reported. Several
authors report estimates for the average daily dietary intake of lithium, ranging from 0.24 to
1.5 [j,g/kg-day (Noel et al., 2003; Clarke et al., 1987; Hamilton and Minski, 1973; Evans et al.,
1985; Clark and Gibson, 1988). A much higher estimate for daily intake from food and
municipal drinking water ranging from 33 to 80 jag Li/kg-day was reported by Moore (1995).
The source of the discrepancy between these estimates is unknown. The p-RfD of 2 |ig/kg-day is
above most estimates of daily dietary intake, but below the range estimated by Moore (1995).
Confidence in the LOAEL value is low-to-medium. Since the clinical literature has
focused on the therapeutic treatment of patients, information on effects observed below the
minimally effective dose is lacking. Confidence in the database is also low-to-medium.
Although there is an extensive database demonstrating the adverse effects of chronic exposure to
therapeutic lithium, information regarding the dose-response relationship of lithium to the
development of adverse effects is lacking. Thus, the relative sensitivity of the different target
organs cannot be identified based on human data. Furthermore, since most animals studies have
been designed to evaluate specific adverse effects associated with the therapeutic serum lithium
concentration range, NOAEL and LOAEL values have not been established in animals studied
for comprehensive toxicity endpoints. The database also lacks well-controlled epidemiology
studies and multi-generation reproduction studies in animals, even though there is evidence of
developmental effects in lithium patients. Low-to-medium confidence in the p-RfD is the result.
FEASIBILITY FOR DERIVING A PROVISIONAL SUBCHRONIC RfC
FOR LITHIUM
No studies investigating the effects of acute, subchronic or chronic inhalation exposure to
lithium in humans were identified. The available studies in animals did not evaluate
comprehensive histopathological, biochemical and clinical endpoints of inhalation exposure.
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Thus, due to the lack of data, derivation of a provisional subchronic or chronic RfC for lithium is
precluded.
PROVISIONAL CARCINOGENICITY ASSESSMENT
FOR LITHIUM
Weight of Evidence Descriptor
Cancer studies in humans and cancer bioassays in animals exposed to lithium by the oral
or inhaled routes were not found. Results of in vitro and in vivo studies in bacterial and
mammalian systems indicate that lithium is not genotoxic. Under EPA's Guidelines for
Carcinogen Risk Assessment (U.S. EPA, 2005), the hazard descriptor, "data are inadequate for an
assessment of human carcinogenic potential," is appropriate for lithium.
Quantitative Estimates of Carcinogenic Risk
Due to the lack of data, derivation of an oral cancer slope factor and an inhalation
cancer unit risk are precluded.
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