Since birth, Zach Tahir has suffered from the rare eating disorder pica. The condition, which was made famous by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, manifests as an inability to distinguish between edible and inedible objects. Over the past few years, the British six-year-old has worked his way through moss, rocks, and soil in his family’s backyard as well as the window blinds in his bedroom. Now, his mother has raised £7,100 to fortify her garden left-overs with tough artificial grass and teeth-resistant material.
The Daily Mail reports that Zach, who is also autistic, is now able to play outside without the temptation of leaves, flowers and grass. The new, safer garden was built with money his mother raised through a charity comedy night. It comes equipped with a slide, trampoline, fake grass, and a wood deck – none of which can be eaten.
“Before it was slushy and muddy so we couldn’t go out there, particularly as Zach is particularly keen on eating moss,” Rachel Holt, Zach’s mother, told reporters. “If a leaf falls down before I’ve had time to get rid of it then he might try and eat that but otherwise I can feel so much happier about him being outside.”
The new garden is the latest in a series of renovations designed to accommodate Zach’s dietary habits. A few months ago, the family saw now choice but to remodel his bedroom after he started to eat his way through the walls. According to Holt, there’s no limit to what he will try to eat.
“He likes things that are textured, and moss has always been his favorite, as he can mull them around and chew on them for a while,” she explained. “It’s very worrying for me as a parent, because you never know what kind of germs he could be taking in.
“But in the garden, he can’t get to the street and he’s completely safe,” she added.
According to the National Institutes of Health, various degrees of pica are observed in ten to 30 percent of children aged one to six. The disorder, which also occurs in pregnant women, has been linked to malnutrition in the form of anemia, iron deficiency, and zinc deficiency. While there is no comprehensive treatment program, cognitive therapy and certain medication may help control the symptoms.