Microbes: they’re all over the place. But perhaps too much so in a certain cherished children’s bath toy. You may know it as the “rubber ducky.”
On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that a recent study found rubber ducks to be havens for “potentially pathogenic bacteria.” The study, published in the N.P.J. Biofilms and Microbiomes journal on Tuesday, was conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, ETH Zurich and the University of Illinois.
Here’s the bad news: testing 19 varieties of rubber duck, the researchers discovered 75 million cells of bacteria per square centimeter on the toys. This is high. The dirty water that oozes from four out of every five ducks tested contained Legionelle and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, which the study’s authors said are “often implicated in hospital-acquired infections.”
The researchers sagely asserted that, “In addition to the nutrient supply, dirty bath water also serves as a further source of microbial seeding for the bath toys.” They also think the problem might be addressed by manufacturers using a higher-quality polymer in their rubber. Reality is chaos.