It comes as little surprise to parents who battle bath toy grunge daily, but scientists have now revealed for the first time exactly what nasties are lurking in yucky rubber duckies.
Swiss and American researchers say they’ve uncovered the dark side of rubber and plastic bath toys. And what they found is the bacteria is caused not just by the toys, but by our children.
The ugly duckling in the bath
The scientists say warm, humid bathrooms are the perfect breeding ground for the growth of bacteria, particularly the inside of rubber bath toys. It’s the smelly, dark liquid that we often see when squeezing out our little one’s bath toys.
For the study, toys were exposed to clean and dirty bath water (this means the water contained soap, human body fluids and bacteria) for 11 weeks. They were then cut in half, and the contents tested in a lab. What they found is enough to make any mum throw out every bath toy in the tub.
- Fungal species were found in almost 60 per cent of the bath toys
- Potentially pathogenic bacteria was found in 80 per cent of the toys studied
- The bacteria found included Legionella and a bacterium often ‘implicated in hospital-acquired infections’
Where does the muck come from?
Tap water doesn’t usually promote microbial growth, because of its low nutrient concentration. But the researchers say it’s the toys themselves – the plastic they’re made from – that releases large amounts of organic carbon compounds. These mix with other bacteria while bathing, like urine and sweat as well as soaps.
The authors say they’re not surprised by the findings either. “Mouldy bath toys are widely discussed in online forums and blogs, but they have received little scientific attention to date,” said supervisor Frederik Hammes.
Will it hurt your child?
Mr Hammes claims there are concerns and possible benefits for children who may squirt the dirty water from the toys onto their faces. “This could strengthen the immune system, which would be positive, but it can also result in eye, ear, or even gastrointestinal infections.”
He says one option to help reduce the possibility of bacterial growth in toys is tighter regulations on the materials used to make them.
How can you clean your bath toys?
There are some really easy ways to get rid of the grime in bath toys, including putting them through the dishwasher. Here are nine ways to get bath toys squeaky clean.