YOUNG CHILDREN are well known to mouth or ingest substances that are not normally regarded as edible, and this is recognized to be a normal phase of development. Persistence of the activity of ingesting non-edible substances after the age of 18 months has been regarded as abnormal (Lourie et al1), and the term "pica" has been applied to this. Parents often regard the practice as being relatively benign; however, associated hazards that have been reported include lead poisoning and infestation with parasites.
It has been claimed that 24% of children with pica also had "probable lead poisoning" (Jacobziner and Raybin),2 and a high level of blood lead was found to be related to a history of pica more often than to any other commonly employed parameter used in the detection of lead poisoning (Bradley et al).3 An example of parasitic infestation is that of toxocariasis following pica
BARLTROP D. The Prevalence of Pica. Am J Dis Child. 1966;112(2):116-123. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1966.02090110060004