Medicine

Rubber ducks can be full of nasty bugs at bath time

Rubber ducks can be full of nasty bugs at bath time

In 2011, the potential chemical risks of bath toys were documented in the book Slow death by rubber duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things, in which two Canadian environmental activists ingested and inhaled things that are part of our everyday lives.

The study, aptly titled, "Ugly ducklings-the dark side of plastic materials in contact with potable water", was published in the latest issue of the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

The scientists found a strikingly high volume - up to 75 million cells per square centimetre - and variety of bacteria and fungus living inside the ducks. This is the first time that scientists have taken a close look at these bath toys - and it turns out that the toys your children use when getting clean are harboring potentially unsafe pathogens.

Swiss and American researchers from Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, ETH Zurich and the University of IL looked at five such rubber toys and found that four of them contained bacteria including legionella that can cause serious lung disease called legionnaire's disease. Researchers found Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa harmful bacteria inside of the toys.

Rubber ducks can be full of nasty bugs at bath time
Rubber ducks can be full of nasty bugs at bath time

The research study was published Tuesday in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes by the University of IL. Besides, 60 percent of the real bath toys were found with fungi species, according to researchers. The scientists said that tap water does not usually foster the growth of bacteria, but low-quality polymers in the plastic materials gave them the nutrients they need.

'We've found very big differences between different bath animals, ' said microbiologist and lead study author Lisa Neu, who alluded to other bath toys, like rubber crocodiles.

In some cases, they say exposing children to microbes like this can result in a stronger immune system.

Despite the alarming findings, this may not be the beginning of the end for the rubber duck. They experimented on toys over 11 weeks, simulating bathtimes and exposing the ducks to dirty water, soap, sweat and urine. The scientists say using higher-quality polymers to make the ducks could prevent bacterial and fungal growth.