You know that squeak you like to make with your rubber ducky?
Listen a little closer next time and you may not hear a squeak of joy. You might even be able to make out the words, "Kill me now."
That is, if your dear ducky can say anything at all. He may already be dead.
According to a new study, rubber duckies, along with a bevy of of our beloved bath toys, are chock-full of harmful microbes — many of them even host toxic fungi like Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
While we know that bathroom towels, sponges, and even pillowcases can get pretty fungi, it’s hard to imagine we might also be bathing with the enemy.
That’s why researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, ETH Zurich and the University of Illinois decided to crack open a few of our best bath buddies.
"Moldy bath toys are widely discussed in online forums and blogs, but they have received little scientific attention to date," senior study author Frederik Hammes, noted in a statement.
Ducky's hurt bad, real bad
To keep things as real as possible, researchers collected 19 bath toys, including rubber duckies, from their "natural" habitats: people’s tubs. They also gathered new bath toys, subjecting both of them to different conditions, like clean and dirty water.
Their findings? Ducky’s sick. Real sick.
They discovered staggering amounts of bacteria and fungi. The entire inner surface of toys was lined with what they called "dense and slimy biofilms."
It some cases it added up as much as 11.6 million bacteria cells per square inch.
Even sadder is the very real possibility that we poisoned Ducky ourselves. As researchers point out in the study, our used bath water is a uniquely fertile environment for microorganisms. It’s got organic and inorganic nutrients from our fancy soaps and shampoos, as well as a generous helping of human debris, including sweat and, dare-we-say, urine.
It all adds up to a belly-full of dangerous rot for bath toys. Even worse, thanks to a rubber ducky’s rather special and trusted role in our lives, that kind of bacteria doesn’t stay there.
Researchers noted, bath toys are at a unique "junction between potable water, plastic materials, external contamination and vulnerable end-users."
And by "vulnerable end-users," they mean children. Or child-like adults.
That means, we may have to put on our adult pants and say good-bye to an old, cherished friend.