n Medical Technology SA - Trace metals in blood and urine of pregnant women practicing geophagia at Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa

Volume 30, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-5528


Geophagia is a common practice among pregnant women in Africa. The present study investigated the haemoglobin levels and concentration of trace metals in blood and urine of those practicing geophagia at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa. Haemoglobin levels of both consumers and non-consumers were measured using the HemoCue Hb 201+ haemoglobinometer. Blood and urine samples were collected and analysed for trace metal contents using inductively coupled plasma membrane spectrophotometry (ICP-MS). The trace metal concentrations were compared to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. The result showed that hemoglobin levels of consumers were found to be lower than those of non-consumers, with a mean of 10.7 ± 0.67g/dl. Levels of chromium, lead and manganese in the blood of consumers showed mean values of 5.78 ± 4.40 µg/l, 2.90 ± 1.40 µg/l and 22.42 ± 14.11 µg/l respectively. From the urine of those eating soil, the mean levels of lead, copper, nickel, arsenic, mercury and zinc were 8.88 ± 7.57 µg/g creatinine, 31.67 ± 12.95 µg/g creatinine, 3.58 ± 2.26 µg/g creatinine, 17.66 + 28.66 µg/g creatinine, 2.40 + 3.57 µg/g creatinine, 452.40 + 286.48 µg/g creatinine respectively. The levels of trace metals were found to be higher than recommended limits (WHO) from those practicing geophagia, indicating that should the practice be continued, cumulative effects of toxic metals and respective health complications may occur. Much education needs to be done in order to make consumers aware of the health dangers involved in the practice.

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