Bacteria in the Pits
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ball pits bacteria

Dave, I know your kids are grown, but did you ever let them play in ball pits? Ball pits...wow, that doesn’t sound like such a nice place. You know, it’s these enclosures with a sea of multicolored balls that kids love to jump in. What their parents may not know is that these ball pits are teeming with bacteria. Blegh! I think my kids may have played in a few because they’re in malls, kids play areas, and even some physical therapy clinics.

Because there are no national standards on how they’re maintained and cleaned, they can be a literal bacterial pit. Often you can actually see dirt, vomit, feces and urine in them. Studies have concluded that ball pits are unhygienic and can harbor dangerous pathogens.

A recent study sampled six clinical ball pits. Nine to fifteen balls were randomly picked from different depths and parts of the pit from each clinic. The entire surface of the balls was swabbed and wiped on petri dishes. The next day they found the number of bacteria ranged from two hundred to more than one hundred seventy thousand. Even from the same pit, those numbers ranged greatly for each ball.

Thirty one types of bacteria were found and nine were pathogenic to humans. Some deadly. They cause illnesses such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, meningitis, septicemia which is blood poisoning by bacteria, and endocarditis which can be a fatal infection of the lining around the heart. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education states on their website “Children should be prohibited from playing in ball pits” because they’re hard to clean.

Parents – this should discourage you from letting your kids play in one.

For more information…

Study: Clinic Ball Pits Carry Bacterial Risks
It's no secret that when it comes to their potential for bacterial awfulness, the children's ball pits often found in fast food restaurants are the stuff of a germaphobe's nightmares. Now it turns out that if not properly maintained, ball pits in physical therapy clinics are capable of inducing shudders too...

Caring for Our Children: Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation
6.2.4.5: Ball Pits - Children should be prohibited from playing in ball pits...

Are ball pits located in physical therapy clinical settings a source of pathogenic microorganisms?
Clinical, therapeutic ball pits commonly used by physical therapists to provide sensory stimulation to children were investigated for microbial colonization. Due to the permissive and hospitable environment provided by these ball pits, microorganisms can accumulate to levels that increase the ease of transmission toexposed individuals. Our study found considerable microbial colonization in ball pits located in clinical settings, including 8 opportunistic pathogenic bacteria and 1 opportunistic pathogenic yeast...