Your child’s rubber duck bath toy could be unexpectedly harming them, researchers have found. These plastic toys can be full of bacteria that could spread diseases,
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, ETH Zurich and the University of Illinois, counted microbes [bacteria causing disease] inside 19 bath toys by cutting them open to reveal what the liquid was like inside. They also carried out controlled experiments on six identical bath toys in a lab.
Bacteria that could cause disease was found in 80% of the bath toys. The researchers said this bacteria could cause eye, ear or stomach infections in children playing regularly with them. Also, when 58% of the bath toys were squeezed they released a liquid that contained fungi.
“All bath toys analysed in this study had dense and slimy biofilms on the inner surface,” they authors wrote in the paper published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes. “Environmental exposure to bacteria and fungi is not necessarily bad for human health and may indeed even strengthen the immune defence. Nevertheless, bath toys are typically used by children, who are potentially sensitive and vulnerable users.”
The study concluded that it was the “low-quality polymer” [synthetic materials used as plastics] in the plastic rubber ducks that fostered the growth of bacteria, not necessarily the water in it. To be scientific, the bacteria found included “Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa” - bacteria they stated was “often implicated in hospital-acquired infections”.
The authors concluded the rubber ducks could be “dangerous” for kids and should be regularly cleaned out inside or thrown away completely. They also cautioned against squirting the duck’s water into children’s faces.
They added: “Further investigations for detailed risk assessment are needed.”