Duck or Yuck: Bath Toys Teem with Bacteria

For the vast majority of Americans, rubber ducks are an indispensable part of taking a bath. While it’s a toy for kids, even adults appreciate the ambience these ducklings can create. However cute they may be, their dark side (i.e. inner surface) can pose a threat to your health. A recent study showed that rubber ducks harbor millions of germs.

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Use of toys in bathroom can help children take to bathing and enjoy the process. Toy ducks are usually made of plastic materials, which enables them to float and amuse kids. However, they are not as safe as they may seem. The plastics in contact with potable water can be home to a wide range of strains, and these bacteria and fungi come from various sources, a recent study showed.

A team of researchers from the US and Switzerland reported that rubber toys used for playing while bathing may pose a threat to those using them, and children are most vulnerable.

My little duck

The paper revealed that bath toys are home to huge amounts of germs. The researchers analyzed the content of the biofilms they found in the 19 bath toys made of plastics the scientists used in the project. All of them were exposed to bath water under real conditions. Also, there were ‘controls’: 6 bath toys (the items used had the same shape and were made of the same materials) were used under controlled conditions and divided into two groups: the first one was additionally exposed to clean water prior to being used, and the second group of toys was exposed to dirty water when bathing was over.

Having analyzed the inside of the toys, researchers found that biofilms were present in all the toys used. The amount of bacteria comprising it varied. In the items exposed to clean water, there were 5.5 x 106 bacterial cells per square cm, and for real toys the figure was 9.5 x 106. The ones in contact with dirty water turned out to be most populated: there were 7.3 x 107 cells per square cm.

The variety of strains found in the biofilms was impressive, with the rarest taxa being found in real bath toys. Fungi were detected in all the toys that made contact with dirty water, and real ones had these in 58% cases.

Homer has always known it. Image Credit: google image

Where do they get there from?

The scientists identified 4 distinct factors that contribute to growth of germs in bath toys.

  • Organic carbon that leaches from the plastics of which toys are made.
  • Tap water, which may vary in quality and its chemical and biological properties.
  • Chemicals from care products, such as soap, shampoos, etc., that serve as nutrients for bacteria and fungi. Besides, there are nutrients that come from body fluids, such as urine, the residue of which is found in bath water.
  • Bacteria also come from the dirt that is being removed in the course of bathing, and from the microbiome of the one who is taking a bath.

Bacteria from bath toys get into bath water, and should it make contact with the mouth, ears, nose, eyes or other areas that are prone to bacterial attacks, you may develop an infection. It is especially dangerous for those whose immune system is weakened. Doctors say it is not a reason to prohibit such toys, but what should be done about it is maintaining proper cleaning regimen.

Yuck! Image Credit: google image

How to keep bath toys clean?

  • When bath toys are not in use, keep them dry. A bathroom is an environment with humid air, which contributes to germ spreading and multiplying. Store toys in a dry, well-ventilated place.
  • Wash them out regularly using warm water and soap. Do not forget to empty the inside of the toy, as it is where bacteria are usually left undisturbed.
  • If you want toys to be as clean as possible, boil them from time to time.

Everything written above is not a reason to deprive your child of the joys of playing with toys while bathing. Just make sure you clean all your toys regularly and keep them dry when not in use.

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