Geochemical composition and potential health risks of geophagic materials: an example from a rural area in the Limpopo Province of South Africa

Hassina Mouri, Retshepile Evelyn Malepe, Carla Candeias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Geophagy is a common practice among rural population of the Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality area in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Although, the practice might be beneficial to the health of the consumers, its negative effects could overshadow the positive effects and might lead to detrimental health issues. The present work sought to investigate the geochemical composition as well as pH and organic matter (OM) content of geophagic materials commonly consumed in the study area. Furthermore, assessment of the potential health risk of the materials on geophagic individuals was also considered. Twelve samples were collected in the study area and analysed by X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Inductively Coupled Plasma—Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) for major and trace elements composition. The results showed higher concentrations of non-essential elements (e.g., As, Cr, Pb) than the proposed recommended daily standards intake, suggesting a potential health risk. The alkaline nature (pH 6.80 to 9.22) of the studied samples might affect the bioacessibility of some essential elements. Furthermore, the OM content (> 0.7%) observed in some of the studied samples may retain pathogenic micro-organisms detrimental to health. Although As and Cr presented a low bioaccessible fraction (< 16.0%), health risk assessment revealed that their concentrations represented a hazard (HQ > 1) and might induce non-carcinogenic health threats to geophagic individuals. Based on the geochemical analysis, pH and OM content as well as health risk assessment findings, the studied geophagic materials are not considered suitable for human consumption. The practice should therefore be discouraged amongst the population in the study area to avoid possible detrimental health issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6305-6322
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Bioaccessible fraction
  • Geophagic materials
  • Health risk assessment
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Geochemical composition and potential health risks of geophagic materials: an example from a rural area in the Limpopo Province of South Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this