Why you should Throw the Rubber Duck out with the Bathwater

Want your child to have a hygienic bathtime? Then ditch their rubber duck. That’s one implication of work by a research team led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, which has found these particular bath toys to be teeming with bacteria. The key issue with the mucky duck is that it is often made from cheap polymers that provide the nutrients certain bacteria need. The Swiss recommend using better plastics. But this is just the tip of a very dirty iceberg. From the kitchen to the living room, the average home is crammed with hidden health hazards:

A kitchen sponge

Sponges

The League of Gentlemen were not wrong. As Uncle Harvey and Auntie Val once observed, after you’ve cleaned, you need to clean your cleaning implements. In 2011, the NSF – an international body that advises on public health and safety – tested the hygiene of 30 household items. Dishcloths and kitchen sponges were worst, containing bacteria from the same family as E coli in 75% of households. Next were kitchen sinks, with 45% of households affected. Toothbrush holders came in third, at 27%.

Chopping board

Chopping boards

What’s on a chopping board? Dead animals. What’s in dead animals’ guts? Fecal bacteria – that’s where they make them. Worse, micro-grooves cut into the chopping boards form cosy homes in which the bacteria can grow and prosper. All of which adds up to a bacteriological bacchanalia.

Washing machine

Washing machines

A dank and occasionally warm cove in your home, the washing machine is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. We put our dirty underwear in there. And because cold washes are more eco-friendly, we no longer heat our clothes to the levels required to kill most germs.

Bucket of ice cubes

Ice

Ice-makers and ice-trays, seldom cleaned because “they only have water in them”, cultivate stagnant pools of occasionally reanimated bacteria. In 2012, while doing a science project, 12-year-old Jasmine Roberts found that the toilet water at Florida fast-food joints was cleaner than the ice. “Seventy per cent of the time, the ice from the fast food restaurant contained more bacteria,” she told her local news station.

A keyboard

Computer keyboards

In 2008, Which? sent experts around its London offices. Of 33 keyboards swabbed, four were regarded as potential health hazards. One had 150 times the recommended limit for bacteria. How do you prevent this? Shake the crumbs out, for a start. Wipe with a soft, damp lint-free cloth. Occasionally disinfect with alcohol wipes. And women, it seems, are the worst. Researchers at the University of Arizona found that the average woman has three to four times as many germs at her desk as does the average man.

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