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Craving EarthUnderstanding Pica--the Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice, and Chalk$
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Sera Young

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231146098

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231146098.001.0001

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What on Earth?

What on Earth?

(p.3) Chapter One What on Earth?
Craving Earth

Sera L. Young

Columbia University Press

Pica is the scientific term for the craving and subsequent consumption of non-food items. While earth is the most commonly craved substance, the list of pica substances includes cornstarch, ice (if consumed in large quantities), chalk, charcoal, ash, flour, newspaper, toilet paper, used coffee grounds, baby powder, and paint chips. With the exception of ice, all of these substances are dry, powdery, and adsorptive, and most of them are rather crunchy. This chapter begins with a description of pica substances. It then discusses how the craving for pica substances is similar with those for tobacco, alcohol, and drugs; and the segments of the population more likely to engage in pica (pregnant women, children, and animals). Next, the chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to answer the question of why human and nonhuman animals are eating pica substances given the hassle, the cost, and the pleas not to.

Keywords:   pica, non-food cravings, consumption, pagophagy

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