It may sounds odd to many of us, but an old practice from Asia and Africa of eating baked clay during pregnancy is causing concern in the UK.
A study by De Montford University confirmed that the practice of eating clay, known as geophagy, is an ancient tradition in many parts of Asia and some parts of Africa. The baked clay, known as sikor, can be bought in the UK, and is thought to be eaten by mums-to-be who are hoping to combat mineral deficiencies.
However the research group at De Montford have found that sikor contains high levels of toxic chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, which can lead to cancer, kidney and brain damage, and for mums-to-be, premature delivery, stillbirth and miscarriage.
It was found eating 50g of sikor a day can lead to three to six times the tolerable exposure levels of arsenic and lead, but it’s believed some people consume a massive 500g of it a day.
Dr Haris from the study says mums-to-be are still eating the substance, despite the risks.
“Geophagy has been in existence in virtually all societies since ancient times and is still prevalent in many parts of the world,” he said.
“The availability of sikor in the UK shows that pregnant women are still taking part in the practice. Clay used to make sikor may be derived from polluted areas, containing bacteria and highly toxic chemicals which may further damage the health of a mother and her child.”