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Rubber Duckies and Other Tub Toys Contain Way More Bacteria Than Most Parents Realize

rubber duckies
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Remember that time a mom freaked out when she realized the inside of her child’s Sophie the Giraffe was basically a Petri dish of gross?

Well, it turns out scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, ETH Zurich and the University of Illinois have been wondering about that exact same thing. In a new study, the first of its kind, released by the Journal of Biofilms and Microbiomes, the classic rubber duck is being scrutinized as “the ugly duckling” after findings that there is definitely enough gunk growing inside the iconic bath toys that could potentially be dangerous enough to send a person to the hospital.

The ugly duckling study points out that bathrooms are pretty much the perfect breeding ground for germs. Between all the humidity, water, and let’s face it, the gross stuff that goes on in a bathroom (especially with kids) it’s no wonder that it is a germ haven.

The researchers mentioned that several decades ago, another scientist had discovered that bath toys, specifically, were magnets for “opportunistic pathogens.” Then, 20 years ago, there was “a multidrug-resistant P. aeruginosa outbreak in a children’s hospital was linked to shared bath toys.”

I’m getting squeamish just thinking about all the bath toys in my own bathroom.

All of the bath toys examined in the study were found to have biofilms that were described as dense and slimy. Yuck. Furthermore, the type of plastic used in making these flexible kinds of toys release a chemical called AOC that actually encourages microbiome growth. Double yuck.

Thankfully, it is now pretty easy to find plastic bath toys that do not have a hole allowing for bathwater to get inside. After a quick search on Amazon’s website, I found 396 bath toys with no holes, including that classic rubber duck that we all know and love. Thank the universe for that, because who wants to wonder about drug-resistant pathogens breeding in their toddler’s evening bath?

If you have bath toys with holes in them, you can plug the holes to prevent germs from growing inside. You can also soak your bath toys overnight in a solution made of one gallon of water and 3/4 cup of bleach. Make sure you squeeze the toy’s air out so that it sucks up the bleachy water before you leave them overnight.

After reading the report for myself, I’ll be throwing all of my bath toys away and instituting a new rule that any toys for the tub must not have a hole. BAM! Problem solved.

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