Containing just a single valence electron, and located in Group 1 elements of the periodic table, Lithium is the lightest of all metals. it is generally classified as an alkali metal: this means that it is soft, malleable, ductile, extremely reactive, and a good conductor of heat and electricity. Lithium is the third element on the periodic table, and has the chemical symbol Li. It also has 2 naturally occuring isotopes (6Li, 7Li) as well as 7 radioisotopes.
Originating from the Greek word: ‘’Lithos,’’ which is translated stone, Lithium was first discovered in the petalite mineral(LiAlSi4O10) by Johan August Arfwedson in 1817. He, however, was only able to isolate it as a salt. it was not until 1821 when the English chemist, William Thomas Brande, was able to successfuly isolate it from the petalite ore via electrolysis of lithium oxide
It is found (in small amounts) in Igneous rocks, and does not occur freely in nature. It can also be produced electrolytically from fused chloride.
Natural food sources
Vegetables such as potatoes, peppers and tomatoes are naturally rich in lithium, but all vegetables generally contain this element because of its existence in the soil.
Dairy products are also natural sources of lithium; it is absorbed by cattle from their food and water.
Concentration of lithium salts in water depends largely on source and location, but regardless of these factors, they naturally contain traces of this element.
As an alloying agent, it is used to synthesize organic compounds, and is also added to glasses as well as ceramics. Due to its high electrochemical potential, it is used in the production of battery anodes. Lithium chloride and lithium bromide can also be used as desiccants.
Medically, lithium can be processed into drug forms like Lithobid and Eskalith. Acting on the body’s nervous system, these drugs assist in the management of depressive illnesses by effecting better emotional control.
Caution should, however, be applied to its usage; you should either get a doctor’s prescription or gain unnecessary weight by disrupting the function of your thyroid.
While studies shows that about 80 percent of lithium users who are treated for bipolar disorder do not suffer any major side effects, lithium overdose is toxic to the body.
A lithium bug will generally experience either one or all of the following symptoms:
Frequent urination or loss of bladder control; increased levels of thirst; nausea and drowsiness; twitching muscles and slight tremors in the hands; skin rashes; slurred speech and a full feeling in the stomach.
Regardless of its medical efficacy, lithium is not suitable for long-term use because it can be damaging to both the kidneys and the thyroid gland. It is also important to seek medical advice in regard to its withdrawal—abrupt discontinuation can cause the symptoms of the treated illness to return.
Finally, since its discovery, it has been of immense benefit to mankind—the cell phone batteries, the desiccants, the antidepressants, the alloying agent for organic compounds. Lithium, indeed, is a wonder element.