CHILDREN’S ball pit play areas are riddled with dozens of killer germs because “they’re not cleaned for WEEKS”, a study has warned.
Researchers examined six ball areas used by autistic children across the US state of Georgia, finding potentially fatal bacteria present in every environment.
Lack of regulation on cleaning play areas allowed a growing colonisation of bacteria, researchers said.
Nine potentially life-threatening bacteria were found in the pits, including those that can lead to septicaemia, meningitis and pneumonia.
“Ball pits are often contaminated with visible dirt, vomit, faeces, or urine providing an origin and permissive environmental factors for microbial contamination”, said the study’s authors at the University of North Georgia.
“Clinics may go days or even weeks between cleanings, which may allow time for microorganisms to accumulate and grow to levels capable of transmission and infection.”
Ball pits are often contaminated with visible dirt, vomit, faeces, or urine providing an origin and permissive environmental factors for microbial contamination
Investigators from the University of North Georgia
Dr Mary Ellen Oesterle led a team visiting six ball pits attached to inpatient physical therapy clinics or outpatient clinics.
They found 31 bacterial species, including eight pathogenic bacteria and one pathogenic yeast.
In some cases, the numbers of bacteria ran into the thousands.
The authors wrote: “[This] clearly demonstrates an increased potential for transmission of these organisms to patients and the possibility of infection in these exposed individuals.”
The bacteria included Enterococcus faecalis, which can cause endocarditis, septicaemia, urinary tract infections and meningitis.
Human-associated bacteria found in the ball pits
- Enterococcus faecalis, which can cause endocarditis, septicemia, urinary tract infection, and meningitis;
- Staphylococcus hominis, a cause of bloodstream infections and reported as a cause of sepsis in a neonatal intensive care unit;
- Streptococcus oralis, known to cause endocarditis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, and streptococcal shock;
- Acinetobacter lwofii, which has been reported to cause septicemia, pneumonia, meningitis, and urinary tract and skin infections.
Children with cuts on their skin would be at an increased risk of infection, especially if their immune system is compromised.
Dr Oesterle’s team wrote: “We found considerable variation in the number of microorganisms between the different ball pit samples.
“This suggest that clinics utilise different protocols for cleaning and maintenance, potentially representing a broader need to clarify and establish standards that reduce the risk of transmission.”
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