The boy who is eating his own bedroom: Zach, 5, can't tell the difference between food and inedible objects because of rare condition
Youngster suffers from extreme form of a disorder called Pica
Eats blinds and plaster from walls as has a constant need to chewZach is also autistic and cannot speakMother Rachel plans to build 'safe room' without objects he can eat



14:22 GMT, 25 May 2012

Five-year-old Zach Tahir suffers from a rare medical condition which means he's slowly eating his way through his bedroom.

Zach has a constant need to chew, but as he can't distinguish between food and inedible objects he wants to eat everything from window blinds to the plaster on his walls.

The youngster from Salford, Greater Manchester, who is autistic and cannot speak, has an extreme form of a disorder called Pica.

zach tahir

Five-year-old Zach Tahir suffers from a rare condition which means he can't tell the difference between food and inedible objects

Filling snack: Some of the loose plaster in Zach's bedroom which the youngster has been eating

Some of the loose plaster in Zach's bedroom which the youngster has been eating

To keep him safe mother, Rachel Horn, has to go to extraordinary lengths ripping up celery to encourage him to eat it instead of thread and even sprinkling nuts on the carpet.

Rachel has now launched a fundraising drive to build a 'safe room', without objects Zach could try to consume.

Rachel, 32, said: 'He eats almost anything – mud and moss, stones, carpet, grow bags, thread, paper, wallpaper and hair.

'He loves to climb on his windowsill and eat his black-out blind. He likes to have something to chew on at all times. It is not the taste he likes, but the texture.

'It's frustrating as Zach doesn't speak – not one word – and meal times are a nightmare.

He doesn't sleep much and I get exhausted, but unlike other autistic children he loves to give me hugs and he dances.'

Zach, who lives with his mum and sister Isabella, two, was diagnosed with autism and learning difficulties aged three. His Pica, which is believed to be linked to autism, was diagnosed around the same time.

Rachel first noticed her son wasn't developing at the rate of other children when he was nine months.

She is hoping to raise 15,000 to make Zach's bedroom safe, furnishing it with items including a special mattress without seams.

She has organised events including a sponsored walk in Buile Hill Park on June 3 and a car boot sale a week later.

Caroline Hattersley, of The National Autistic Society, said: 'People with autism often experience sensory difficulties.

'For some individuals, the texture or taste of inedible items may give positive sensory input.'

Pica is surprisingly common – although cases as extreme as Zach's are rare. Experts say as many as 21 per cent of children aged one to six can suffer it at some stage.

Pica derives from the Latin for magpie – a bird with a reputation for eating almost everything. It appeared in medical texts as far back as 1563 and is believed to be common in pregnant women.

In some cases, a lack of certain minerals – such as iron and zinc – may trigger the unusual cravings.


The habit of eating non-edible objects could arise from some sort of deficiency.

Some sufferers eat dirt, according to Dr Carol Cooper, and many of them are found to lack iron, which is present in soil.

Others develop the condition because of extreme stress, though it is not clear why.

A desire to eat cleaning agents may be linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder or just a liking for fragrances. Pica can lead to dangerous complications in the body's metabolism.

One type of treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy with an experienced psychologist.

Sponge cake: Nicole Bonner has eaten 1,000 sponges in the past few years

Sponge cake: Nicole Bonner has eaten 1,000 sponges in the past few years

Other sufferers who have made the news recently include Natalie Hayhurst, who at the age of three, nearly died last February after eating a lightbulb that she tore from a bedroom night-light. Natalie also admitted wolfing down almost a whole brick, 'like it was a chocolate chip cookie'.Last year, Nicole Bonner, then 22, said she had eaten around 1,000 sponges in the past five years after developing a strange craving for soap during her pregnancy.Kerry Trebilcock, 21, confessed to eating more than 100 bars of soap, giving her stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhoea. She said she often 'spices up' her sponge diet with hot sauce or mustard, or dunks her strange snacks in tea or hot chocolate.Tempestt Henderson, from Florida, told how she eats up to five bars of soap a week – and washing powder too. She said: 'I remember the first time I dipped my fingers into the washing powder. I dabbed the powder onto my tongue and it tasted so sweet, and salty…it just felt so right. I was hooked straight away.'Teresa Widener, a 45-year-old woman from Bedford, Virginia, has regularly sucked the dirt off rocks before crunching them between her teeth. 'I like that it has an earthy flavour', she said. 'If I know I have some at my house I feel better, just knowing they're there…they're there for me when I'm upset or whatever.