Sophie the Giraffe has been a newborn must-have for literally decades now. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a baby registry these days without her on it. While their infatuation with Sophie remains a bit of a mystery, it’s said that babies love chewing on her soft, rounded ears while teething and that her unique design makes her easy to hold onto during that learning-how-to-grip stage. And parents? They love Sophie for her mystical baby-calming abilities.
But over the weekend, parents everywhere were horrified when reports started swirling that black mold was being found inside many Sophie the Giraffe toys.
It all started on Jan. 16, when GoodHousekeeping.com posted a now-viral article featuring claims from mom and pediatric dentist Dana Chianese, who says she used to recommend teething toys to her patients every day — and even gave them to her own two children — until two months ago. That’s when Chainese says she was cleaning her son’s Sophie and noticed a bit of air coming out of a small hole in the toy. When she got closer, she smelled a musty odor that worried her.
“I decided to cut into Sophie out of curiosity and discovered a science experiment living inside,” Chianese told Good Housekeeping. “Smelly, ugly mold living in my infant’s favorite chew toy!”
This story on its own is enough to sound some alarm bells for most parents, who may now be wondering what’s going on inside their kid’s toy — especially one they allow to put in their mouth every day. And a quick scroll through Sophie’s Amazon reviews proves that sadly, the black mold Chianese saw in her son’s toy has been discovered by other parents, too.
“Beware!!” wrote Amazon user Stephanie Oprea back in February 2016. “If you have a drooly baby, moisture will get in the hole and you’ll end up with mold! We’ve had ours for two years and the entire inside is coated with black mold!”
In a discussion forum on What to Expect last year, another mom had a similar tale after chopping the legs off her daughter’s Sophie toy because she was worried about potential choking hazards. Once they were off, she was shocked to see black moldy specks inside.
@Cosmopolitan omg now I feel like I should cut my sons Sophie open
— Heidi Rizzo (@tahirajh) January 15, 2017
For parents who are (understandably) alarmed by all of this, here’s a bit of calming news: Dr. Lyuba Konopasek, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, recently shared with Care.com that while finding mold in your kid’s toys is certainly gross, it actually doesn’t pose a significant health risk unless they have a mold allergy. And if they do, this may lead to symptoms like coughing, itchy eyes, and minor skin rashes — which are all uncomfortable and problematic in their own right, but luckily, not severe and easily remedied once you’ve found the source of the problem.
There’s also a big difference between being exposed to a limited amount of mold in a toy and prolonged exposure to an indoor mold issue that may lead to more serious upper respiratory symptoms.
If you’re worried about your own kids’ toys, Care.com suggests making sure you plug up any holes in them — especially if they’re being used in the bath — and regularly cleaning them to prevent mold growth and build-up. You can soak them overnight by combining about a gallon of water and 3/4 cups of bleach, run them through the dishwasher, or even boil them from time to time.
But if you’ve already found a considerable amount of mold inside the product, your best bet might be just to replace it altogether and starting with something fresh.
— Janiece Noel (@JanieceNoelPR) January 16, 2017
Vulli, the French company behind Sophie the Giraffe, also suggests regularly cleaning Sophie with a damp cloth and making sure it stays out of water. A representative issued the following statement when contacted by Good Housekeeping:
“First of all, it’s important to know that Sophie la Girafe [Sophie the Giraffe] is composed of 100% natural rubber, so the cleaning instructions have to be carefully respected. As indicated on the packaging and in an explanatory leaflet inside the packaging, we recommend to clean the surface of Sophie la Girafe with a damp cloth. It should not be immersed in the water nor rinsed off, to prevent water from getting inside, as she may become damaged. We thus would like to emphasize on the fact that is it important, while cleaning the product, that no water gets inside the whole. [sic] As of now, we have not been contacted by Mrs. Chianese nor Mrs. Opera and were not aware of the situation before reading your article. It is thus difficult for us to comment on the current situation, as we haven’t had the chance to examine the products. Please know that each complaint received is taken very seriously and that the return of the product is always asked for further examination. Furthermore, please know that the safety of children and satisfaction of their parents is our main priority. For the past 55 years, we have always strived to exceed security standards and all of our products comply with the most stringent global standards.”