Trace elements in three edible clay samples from an open-air market in Kitwe, Zambia were analyzed for heavy metals using a scanning electron microscope coupled with an energy-dispersive spectrometer. The ingestion of clays has been observed throughout history but persists in many rural countries that lack sufficient access to proper medical care. In many African countries, women have been observed eating clay during pregnancy to reduce nausea or meet their recommended intake of iron. Similar studies identified harmful heavy metals in the makeup of the edible clays, however, the results of this analysis elemental analysis coupled with the SEM for the three samples did not show toxic concentrations of lead, mercury, or arsenic. Although eating soil can damage tooth enamel, inhibit digestion of important nutrients, and put people at risk of biological infections, the elements found in these three samples should not lead to health issues resulting from heavy metal poisoning.
Craze, Amelia M. and Brandon, Mina L.
"Elemental Analysis of Edible Clay from the Copperbelt Province of Zambia,"
The University of Mississippi Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 3
, Article 6.
Available at: https://egrove.olemiss.edu/umurjournal/vol3/iss1/6