Why Some Americans Eat White Dirt

Woman from the Southern United States eating white dirt.

Woman from the Southern United States eating white dirt.

“I remember my mom and my aunties eating that white dirt like it was nothing,” Mamie Lee Hillman told NPR. “It was an acceptable thing that people did.” Hillman was raised in Greene County, Georgia, where she recalls digging for dirt to snack on. White dirt is chalky, soft clay called kaolinite that is common throughout the world, but has large deposits in the southeastern United States.

The practice of eating dirt may seem antiquated or bizarre to most people, however this behavior is fairly common. Today, especially in the South of the United States, you can find packaged bags of dirt for sell as ‘novelty items’ in small shops and flea markets.

It was the selling of dirt as a snack food that caught the attention of Adam Forrester, a filmmaker and assistant professor of photography at Troy University. His new documentary, Eat White Dirt, will profile this hidden, but common behavior.

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NPR reports, the practice of dirt eating is at least 2 million years old, when Homo sapiens were only Homo habilis. Sera Young, Nutritional Anthropologist at Cornell University, mentions that eating dirt is the result of a disorder called pica. Pica forms as the result of a severe mineral deficiency that can occur because of a lack of iron or during pregnancy.

People with pica crave non-food items like ice, charcoal, and starch. Dr. Young notes that when asked why they enjoy eating dirt, people with pica simply don’t have answer.

One theory on why dirt eating has persisted is that clay acts as a natural filter that, when ingested, acts as a “mud mask for the gut,” and binds harsh chemicals in the intestines before they can enter the bloodstream. This theory may seem far-fetched, but recent tests have shown that rats that eat kaolin are less susceptible to death or disease when exposed to various poisons.

Because of its binding properties, however, clay will also absorb good nutrients and can contribute to other illnesses like anemia.

Dr. Young estimates that hundreds of thousands of people are affected by cravings caused by pica, especially pregnant women whose immune systems are suppressed as a biological precaution during pregnancy. Yet little is really known about the disorder because sufferers are embarrassed by their compulsion.

Forrester hopes that his film will shed more light on the practice. Eat White Dirt will premiere in select venues this summer.

Eat This Water Bottle To Stop Plastic Pollution

This Edible Water Bottle Could Save the Planet

This Blob Could Stop Plastic Bottle Pollution

According to National Geographic, Americans buy 29 billion plastic bottles of water a year; 5 out of 6 of these bottles meet the landfill and will stay there for approximately 450 years (the average time it takes for plastic to biodegrade). So what is an environmentally responsible person who likes to hydrate to do? Enter the Ooho globule, the water bottle you can eat.

Developed by a group of Spanish design students, the Ooho is a creative, healthy, and earth conscience alternative to plastic water bottles. Designers Rodrigo García González, Pierre Paslier , and Guillaume Couche say the Ooho is a gelatinous blob made from water through a process called “sperification.” When a person gets thirsty, all they have to do is pierce the double membrane and drink. If you happen to be hungry and thirsty, just take a bite out of the Ooho and it will feed and hydrate you at the same time.

The process of sperification began in labs in 1946. It is a technique used to shape liquids into spheres that has become popular among chefs in Spain. Water is frozen into ice before being encased in the double membrane to prevent mixing with membrane ingredients. The Ooho’s membrane is made from calcium chloride and brown algae that creates a seal around the water, and also makes the Ooho edible.

The Ooho only costs 2 cents to make and can be created at home. Co-Designer Rodrigo García González says now consumers can feel comfortable drinking from the tap again. “The reality is that more and more, when we drink water we throw away a plastic bottle,” García told Co.Exist. “Eighty percent of them are not recycled. This consumerism reflects the society in which we live.”

The use of the Ooho is only limited by consumer imagination. Currently, marathon runners can use the edible water bottle to hydrate instead of wasting paper cups. Electrolytes can also be added to the membrane to give athletes a boost similar to Gatorade, reports the Huffington Post. Check out this video by Fast Company on the Ooho and how it could help save the planet.

The Paediatricians Who Think Child Vaccinations are “Messing with Nature”

Are Childhood Vaccinations Against Nature?

Syringes  and their contents evoke fear and mistrust among some sections of the community.

A growing number of pediatricians are promoting the delay of certain childhood vaccinations and the forgoing of others completely. Although discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics, alternative childhood vaccination schedules are not a forbidden practice. As a result, pediatric practices that offer alternative vaccination schedules are popping up across the nation.

Pediatric Alternatives in Mill Valley, California treats between 1,500 and 2,000 children a year. Stacia Kenet Lansman, the founder and head physician, has 20 years of experience in pediatric medicine. In 1998 she opened the clinic with the goal to, “start children and families out with healthy habits and routines so that they are more likely to stay healthy.” This includes skipping many recommended child hood vaccinations like polio, hepatitis B, and chicken pox.

Dr. Lansman believes that over vaccinations have contributed to the recent surge in autoimmune disorders and other chronic conditions in children. She told Mother Jones, “I think we’re just messing with nature. The incidence of asthma, allergies, and autism spectrum disorders has dramatically increased since the 1990s. And the reason for this we don’t know. But my concern is that vaccines have played a role.”

Although she encourages parents to get the meningitis vaccination and the DTaP shot-which fights against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, she claims that children do not need protection against other “low risk” diseases for their age group. For example, she advises parents to forgo the hepatitis B vaccine, which is contracted mainly through sexual activity and intravenous drug use, behavior she says, “Children are not engaged in.”

A recent health survey reports that 13% of parents currently use an alternative immunization schedule. The practice of picking and choosing which childhood vaccinations to administer based on, what seems like; parental preference is a trend that has many pediatricians worried. Dr. Alanna Levine, a pediatrician in Orangeburg, New York comments, “I think that policy is dangerous.  I think it puts children at risk when they are most vulnerable.”

Saad Omer, a professor of public health at Emory University, agrees with Dr. Levine.  “You want to give vaccines as early as possible to protect the child,” he told Mother Jones, “If you delay, you are leaving the most vulnerable period for the child open.”

The decision to vaccinate a child rests with the parents. However, alternative vaccination schedules go against the recommendations of both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents should exercise due diligence before pursuing a tailor made vaccination schedule for their child. Children do not live in a bubble. And just because measles are not common in California, doesn’t mean a child won’t come into contact with a person from a country that is riddled with it. Is the freedom to opt out of childhood vaccinations really worth the risk?