Pica is an abnormal appetite for soil, flour, chalk, starch or other non-foods. The condition's name comes from the Latin word for the magpie, a bird which is reputed to eat almost anything. Pica is seen in all ages, particularly in pregnant women and small children, especially among children who are developmentally disabled where it is the most common eating disorder. It is much more common in developing countries and rural areas than elsewhere. In extreme forms, pica is regarded as a medical disorder.
Pregnant women have been known to develop strong cravings for gritty substances like soil or flour. Some theorize that these women may be craving trace minerals lacking in their system, but there have been no major studies on this because of strong aversion to the subject as "gross" and "disgusting".
Warning: Pica in children, while common, can be dangerous. Children eating painted plaster containing lead may suffer brain damage from lead poisoning. There is a similar risk from eating dirt near roads that existed prior to the phaseout of tetra-ethyl lead in gasoline. In addition to poisoning, there is also a much greater risk of gastro-intestinal obstruction or tearing in the stomach. This is also true in animals