An eating disorder that causes kids to crave non food items like dirt, clay, paint chips and ice affects toddlers in Massachusetts. The condition is called Pica.

For children, who learn about the world by putting things into their mouths, pica is really fairly common.

Eating paint chips can lead to lead poisoning which is why Massachusetts law is so strict when it comes to lead paint. Lead paint just happen to have a sweet taste which is why kids can be drawn to it.

1 in 40 kids ages 1-5 have unhealthy levels of lead in their blood.

iStock via Getty Images
iStock via Getty Images

Pica is a compulsive eating disorder in which people eat nonfood items. Dirt, clay, and flaking paint are the most common items eaten. Less common items include glue, hair, cigarette ashes, and feces. The disorder is more common in children, affecting 10% to 30% of young children ages 1 to 6. It can also occur in children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Kids with Pica crave non-food items

  • dirt
  • clay
  • rocks
  • paper
  • ice
  • crayons
  • hair
  • paint chips
  • chalk
  • feces (poop)

Pica is more common in children with:

  • developmental problems, such as autism or intellectual disabilities
  • mental health problems, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or schizophrenia
  • malnutrition or hunger. Non-food items might help give a feeling of fullness. Low levels of nutrients like iron or zinc might trigger specific cravings.
  • stress. Pica is often seen in kids living in poverty, or in those who've been abused or neglected.


Craving ice, which is a symptom of Pica, is a stand alone issue as well.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Pagophagia (compulsive ice chewing) is a particular form of pica that is characterized by ingestion of ice, freezer frost, or iced drinks. It is usually associated with iron deficiency anemia or mental abnormalities like intellectual disabilities, autism, etc.

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