Geophagy - the cultural practices of eating soil - common in many sub-Saharan countries?
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TOPIC: Geophagy - the cultural practices of eating soil - common in many sub-Saharan countries?

Geophagy - the cultural practices of eating soil - common in many sub-Saharan countries? 03 Apr 2014 14:49 #8092

  • joeturner
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  • I am a shit philosopher, thinking about how we think about sanitation. I think our main paradigms in WASH may be wrong.
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I've just been looking at quite a number of research articles - for example this one - which talk about the cultural practices of eating soil. I read that it is common in many sub-Saharan countries.

The health risks of such cultural practices include ingestion of toxic metals, biological pathogens and ascaris hookworms.

Given that, I was wondering the extent to which WASH projects might (and perhaps already do) consider geophagy as a source of diarrheal disease.

Here are some quotes from that paper:

The habit of eating soil is a common phenomenon in some parts of Africa. In South Africa, the habit of eating soil has been observed in different groups of people especially the pregnant, breast feeding mothers and children. In children, the habit could either be voluntary or involuntary. This practice has a long old tradition, with the notion that eating soil is just as normal as eating fruits plucked directly from the tree.


And from the conclusion:

The present study revealed a significant difference in elemental concentration from all the geophagic soil samples collected from the same province. This may be as a result of differences in parent material or different levels of soil pollution around the area. When soils with high lead level are ingested by pregnant women, the vulnerable foetus might be at risk.
It will be extremely difficult to curb or stop the habit of eating soil from these areas because of its perceived benefits. It is therefore imperative for government and different stake holders to pronounce legislation on the permissible level of different elements in soil that are consumed by these groups of individuals.


This paper is only looking at heavy metals, I have found several others looking at pathogens.
I don't work for anyone, I am a philosopher interested to think about how we think about WASH and sanitation. All thoughts are mine alone, I am responsible for any errors.

Previously trained and worked as a Soil Scientist and worked on projects composting sewage sludge.
Last Edit: 08 Apr 2014 09:29 by joeturner.

Re: Geophagy - eating soil 08 Apr 2014 09:30 #8146

  • joeturner
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  • I am a shit philosopher, thinking about how we think about sanitation. I think our main paradigms in WASH may be wrong.
  • Posts: 284
  • Likes received: 46
  • Karma: 13
Hi, I am still interested in comments on this phenomena.

I read that it is particularly common in Kenya and South Africa. Are you aware of it where you work?

It seems to me that this could be a source of infection outwith of sanitation.
I don't work for anyone, I am a philosopher interested to think about how we think about WASH and sanitation. All thoughts are mine alone, I am responsible for any errors.

Previously trained and worked as a Soil Scientist and worked on projects composting sewage sludge.
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