MOLD IN TOYS: How dangerous is it and what can you do about it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bath toys, such as bright yellow rubber duckies, help lure your kids to the tub, but they also attract something darker: mold. If you've ever squeezed a bath toy and noticed a stream of watery, black gunk come out of the little hole at the bottom, you've seen the evidence.

Mold is gross, but is it unsafe? Here's the scoop:

Where Does Mold Grow?
Anything that traps moisture is a potential breeding ground for mold. Bath toys, humidifiers and even nasal aspirators and teething rings can fester unsightly mold. 

Recently, Tommee Tippee's sippy cups became headline news when parents discovered black mold after breaking apart the spout on the underside of the lid. Pouched GoGo Squeeze Applesauce has been recalled due to mold growth, and CapriSun has also struggled with mold in its products.

How Dangerous is This Mold?

The good news is that mold, while never welcome, is generally not dangerous, because your child's exposure to mold through product is at a relatively low level. Any mold ingested will be disposed of by the body through the digestive process -- similar to if you accidentally give your child a piece of moldy bread. 

Dr. Lyuba Konopasek , an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Medical Center, says that unless your child has immune problems, even if your child directly ingests a squirt of moldy bath-toy water, "[t]he likelihood of a child getting sick from this is close to zero." 

If your child does have a mold allergy , however, exposure can cause coughing, itchy eyes and other uncomfortable allergy symptoms, including skin rashes

Exposure to a limited amount of mold in toys should be differentiated from exposure to an overall moldy indoor environment. The Institute of Medicine found sufficient evidence to link exposure to indoor mold to upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughs, wheezing and asthma in otherwise healthy people. 

How Do I Know if My Kids' Products Have Mold?

Mold on the outside of a product is hard to miss and easy to clean. But it can be more difficult to detect mold inside of products. To inspect bath toys and other toys with holes in them, fill them with water and then squeeze or shake the water out. If the water comes out accompanied by dark filth, you've got mold.

For products with parts that you can't see inside, such as sippy cup valves, or bath toys without holes that have developed small cracks through which water can enter, the only way to really tell is by breaking them apart, which will likely ruin the product. 

How Can I Get Rid of the Mold in My Kids' Products?
Once mold has gotten into a product, it's not always easy to clean adequately. For small items like bath toys and sippy cups, replacement is the best plan. If you have a Tommee Tippee sippy cup, and are concerned about mold inside, you can request a replacement valve from the company. The replacement part is clear, so you can easily see if mold is starting to grow. The company has also developed a video showing the proper way to clean the cup so that you can keep mold at bay. 

To clean larger toys, soak them overnight in a mixture of 3/4 of a cup of bleach to one gallon of water, and then allow them to air dry. If you use a humidifier, clean it weekly to prevent mold buildup, and every month or so do a more thorough clean with distilled vinegar or bleach--though check the owner's manual first for specific instructions.

But the best way to deal with mold is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Plug bath toys (try a dab of hot glue) so that water can't get trapped inside and breed mold. Keep them clean by periodically boiling them, washing them the bleach and water mixture described above, or run them in the dishwasher. Make sure to allow the toys to thoroughly dry after cleaning.