Geophagy during pregnancy: Is there a health risk for infants?

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Abstract

Prenatal lead exposure is a public health concern. Geophagy, the practice of soil eating, is documented for pregnant women of sub-Saharan Africa to treat pregnancy-related malaise. The soils however can contain substantial amounts of lead. In an exploratory study on 48 mother-child pairs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we found striking site-specific differences in prenatal lead exposure, i.e., higher lead levels at Kisangani than at Isiro. Kisangani women consumed 1/ more often soil during the first trimester of pregnancy as well as 2/ a different type of soil compared to Isiro women (P<0.05). We conclude geophagy may be a potential source of prenatal lead exposure.

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