Experts warn pregnant women against eating sikor clay

Monday 31st January, 2011

Eating baked clay or ‘sikor’ for cultural reasons could risk your’s and your baby’s health, warn experts.

In many parts of the world such as Africa and India, eating baked clay is an ancient tradition and the sikor tablets can be found in UK ethnic stores. The clay is ingested for medicinal and nutritional reasons but experts have discovered high levels of toxins such as arsenic, cadmium and lead in tablets imported from Bangladesh.

While these toxins can cause cancer, kidney damage and brain damage, lead in particular can potentially result in pregnant women suffering a premature delivery, stillbirth or miscarriage.

While an estimated 500g per day is consumed by people practising ‘geophagy’, researchers from De Montfort University in Leicester calculated that just 50g of sikor per day can cause three to six times tolerable daily exposure to arsenic and lead.

“Geophagy has been in existence in virtually all societies since ancient times and is still prevalent in many parts of the world and the availability of sikor in the UK shows that pregnant women are still taking part in the practice,” said Dr Parvez Haris, head of the biomedical and environmental health group at De Montfort.

“Tests on the sikor from Bangladesh reveal that it contains a cocktail of toxic chemicals that are known to be harmful to humans. This is hugely worrying not only for pregnant women in the UK consuming the material, but for women in India and Bangladesh who may be drinking arsenic-contaminated water as well.

“It is vital that the composition of geophagy substances are thoroughly characterised to safeguard health and well-being of the consumers. 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.”



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