A recent article in Nature (March 2018) studied bath toys and what they found was a bit disturbing. Due to the higher temperatures and humidity in bathrooms, toys were found to have greater microbial growth. Fungi were identified in 58% of all bath toys along with lots of different bacteria.
Bath toys like the rubber ducks develop a biofilm on their surface. The composition of this film depended on the type of plastic material, the organisms found in the tap water, the personal care products used and the bacteria from the environment. Organisms such as Pseudomonads, Listeria, Klebsiella, Legionellaceae and Enterococci were identified in the report- bacteria we know can cause serious infections. Most concerning was what was happening inside the toy. On a surface that cannot be cleaned…

So how bad is this?
It’s important for us all to be exposed to bacteria and fungus in order to keep our immune systems strong. The researchers had concerns that the users of these toys were children and therefore more ‘vulnerable’. With the exception of newborns, I’m not sure that’s true…
Most children have very strong immune systems!

What to do?
On one hand, we don’t have a lot of studies documenting the danger of bath toys…And they’ve been around a long time. On the other hand, it pays to be safe, so you might consider getting rid of toys that have holes and can absorb water.

Like that squeaky rubber ducky!

Susan Badaracco, pediatrician and author of “The Oath” series.