A new study has found that bath toys, like the iconic yellow rubber ducky, are probably full of bacteria.
The study, published in the journal NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes, found that the slimy substance inside of bath toys are riddled with bacteria, like Agrobacterium, Bradyhizobium, Sphingomonas and Caulobacter. Pseudomonas was also found, which can cause ear and eye infections in humans.
Researchers tested 19 different toys as part of the study and concluded that the combination of plastic toys and dirty bath water creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
The researchers compared the bath toys from five Swiss households against a control group. The bath toys had up to 75 million bacterial cells per square centimeter of interior surface.
Markus Egert, microbiologist at Furtwangen University in Germany, told the Independent that the bacteria level is “the same density of bacteria you can find in human stool samples.”
Lead researcher Frederik Hammes said the main problem is the components that make up the plastic used in bath toys.
“All these soft plastic materials have softeners called plasticizers in them to make them flexible,” said Hammes. The plasticizers migrate out of the toy and into the water, where bacteria feed on them.
Microbes and bacteria also like the warm water in the bath, which is full of phosphates and nitrogen supplied by human body fluids and soap.
Hammes noted how children love to squirt their faces with bath toy water. One on hand, the bacteria may strengthen the child’s immune system, he said. On the other hand, it could cause ear, eye or gastrointestinal infections.
While the results of the study are alarming, Hammes says there is no reason to panic. Humans are exposed to bacteria and microbes every day.
Regular cleaning with hot water and soap can help prevent bacteria growth, Hammes says. Other experts recommend boiling the toys after each use, but surviving bacteria tends to be stronger and potentially more harmful.
Hammes also suggests that while they are less fun, bath toys without holes are cleaner.
Hammes also suggests implementing tighter regulations on polymeric materials that are used to make plastic bath toys. He also says further research is needed on the potential risks of biofilms and the contaminants that collect inside of toys.
“To assess the real extent of this risk, more experimental work with specific focus on hygienic aspects is needed,” he said.
Bathrooms in general are covered with germs, but only about one to two percent of all germs are harmful.
The bathtub is the one of the dirtiest places in the entire home. In fact, tubs have more than 1,000 bacteria per square inch, according to Today. The bathtub material makes no difference either. Porcelain, cast iron and lucite bathtubs are vulnerable to bacteria growth.
Streptococcus, E. coli and staph are commonly found in bathtubs, as they thrive in wet, warm bathtubs. Part of the problem is that bathtubs don’t dry entirely.
So before you hop in the tub for a relaxing bath, be sure to clean the bathtub entirely to kill as much bacteria as possible.