Ball Pits Are So Dirty They're Dangerous, New Study Reveals
Kids love a good ball pit - they're the perfect place for them to put their seemingly relentless energy levels to good use. But it turns out that ball pits aren't as harmless as you may have thought.
While an 'obvious' danger might be that children - as helpless and small that they are - are vulnerable to being hit in the eye with a rogue flying ball - that's actually not the most dangerous thing about them.
Alarmingly, a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control has found that ball pits are teeming with all kinds of germs - and potentially deadly ones too.
Researchers from the University of North Georgia studied six physical therapy centres and found over 31 different kinds of bacteria, that could go on to cause serious infections.
It also emerged that clinics with ball pits sometimes go days or even weeks without cleaning the pits.
For the study, the researchers included balls found at various depths in the pit - not just the ones at the top.
At the site with the most insanitary ball pit, the scientists found an average of 170,818 bacteria per ball.
Disturbingly, one ball had as many as 712,000 microorganism cells. These bacteria can go on to cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, skin infections, bloodstream infections, sepsis, meningitis, and endocarditis.
The scientists involved in the study are now warning the authorities that cleaning practices should be standardised to ensure children aren't being exposed to incredibly harmful bacteria.
Physical therapy centres tend to use ball pits as a means of encouraging kids to build up their motor and sensory skill,s which is why the researchers focused on these sites.
Perhaps worryingly, ball pits have become a staple in chain restaurants like McDonald's. And the fast food giant is certainly not exempt from the slipping sanitary standards of ball pits.
Indeed, it came to light that McDonald's ball pits are dirtier than their toilets, after Dr Erin Carr-Jordan, a professor at Arizona State, probed the site, discovering the following: "We found stuff that causes meningitis, food-borne illness, skin, hair, eye infections. . . faecal contamination, coliforms, quite a few things that can make children ill, and several of which are multi-drug resistant and potentially fatal."
There have also been various reports highlighting that teenagers had been using the fun play pits to engage in sexual activity, that homeless people been entering the pits and that sharp objects had been left there.
Now, I don't know about you, but, in light of this study, I'd be wary of letting my kids anywhere near a ball pit. What do you think?