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Heavy metals and parasitic geohelminths toxicity among geophagous pregnant women: a case study of Nakuru Municipality, Kenya
- Odongo, A. O., Moturi, W. N., Mbuthia, E. K.
- Environmental geochemistry and health 2016 v.38 no.1 pp. 123-131
- Ancylostoma, Ascaris lumbricoides, Necator americanus, Taenia, Trichuris trichiura, adults, atomic absorption spectrometry, bioavailability, case studies, children, clay, developing countries, eggs, geophagia, health education, heavy metals, iron, larvae, lead, microscopy, morbidity, mortality, poisoning, pregnant women, public health, screening, toxicity, zinc, Kenya
- Geophagia is defined as deliberate consumption of earths’ materials, e.g. soil, clay and soft stones. The practice is widespread among pregnant women, and there are conflicting views as to whether it is beneficial to health or not. Geophagic materials may be a source of micronutrients though the materials may bind the micronutrients thus reducing or hindering their bioavailability in the body. Geophagia is closely associated with geohelminthic infections among pregnant women and heavy metal poisoning, which constitute significant public health problem in many developing countries such as Kenya. In our research, the geophagic materials consumed by the pregnant women were studied. A total of 38 geophagic materials in the possession by different pregnant women were analysed. The collected samples were subjected to standard digestion procedures and analysed for zinc, lead and iron by atomic absorption spectroscopy. Results indicated that the geophagic materials contained elevated levels of Fe at mean concentration value of 80.10 ppm, Pb at 3.28 ppm and Zn 1.81 ppm for a 1.00 g sample. An average of 20 g of the geophagic materials was being consumed per day. Based on the average consumption, the pregnant women were exposed to 65.52 ppm Pb per day, 36.2 ppm Zn per day and 1602 ppm Fe per day. Lead exceeded the WHO-lead exposure limits of 25 ppm/day for pregnant women. The materials were also subjected to microscopic examination for Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, Taenia Spp., Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale. In conclusion, the women were exposed to heavy metals—iron, zinc and lead, but there was no observable eggs, larvae or adult species of the geohelminths. The key recommendation was that there is need to integrate public health education on geophagia, lead screening and testing with antenatal support care systems. This will enhance maternal and child health, thus reducing infant and maternal morbidity and mortality rates.