The canary yellow rubber ducks have long been popular bath toys for toddlers the world over. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: That harmless-looking canary yellow rubber duck that is your toddler’s favourite bath time toy could be doing more harm than good, warn Swiss and American researchers.

In fact, new study has suggested that sickness and disease could await your precious baby because of all of the nasty bugs hiding inside the plastic toy.

Researchers found a very high level of microbes and bacteria, including the Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, that are often implicated in hospital-borne infections.

So is it time to deep-six yucky ducky?

Doctors in Dubai resoundingly have a unanimous ‘Yes’ for worried parents.

Dr Sandeep Panikkasseri Dasan (right), specialist paediatrician at Aster Clinic, Muhaisnah, explained: “Stagnant water in any form harbours a wide range of microbes including deadly bacteria and fungus. The duck has a hollow centre where water often gets trapped. This water is mixed with saliva, urine and other secretions and stands in the hollow becoming an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, especially the Gram-negative strains such as E. coli and other pseudomonas from faecal matter.”

Dr Dasan said these travel into the child’s digestive track as most children put their duck into the mouth causing nausea, vomiting, digestive track infections and diarrhoea.

“Parents come to us often unable to understand why their child is sick when they have been so particular about keeping the environment sterile. But they often overlook the harmless looking duckling standing in the damp corner of the bath tub,” said Dr Dasan.

Apart from bacteria that require the child to undergo antibiotic treatment, the duck also harbours fungi such as candida and other moulds as well because it remains in a damp and moist environment that is an ideal ground for breeding such microbes, added Dr Dasan.

While researchers have found the tiny rubber ducklings to harbour these disease-causing microbes, Dr Vishal Mehta (right), paediatrician at RAK Hospital, thinks it is time for parents at actually review the quality of the bath toys.

“The little yellow duckling is perhaps one of the most popular bath toy but look at the soft rubber material it is made of. This is made of Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) one of the most toxic synthetic plastic polymer recognised by the World Health Organisation as a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) product.”

Dr Mehta said the bright yellow paint on the rubber with the bright red beak too contains lead and other dangerous chemicals: “Children put these toys in their mouth. So apart from these bath toys being breeding grounds for harmful microbes, they are made of harmful products to begin with.“

The doctor recommends to give the child a soap dish that does not hold water and is bigger than the child’s mouth so that he plays with it but is not able to have too much oral contact with it.

“Most plastic toys come with clear instructions about usage and the tiny ones must in any case be kept away from the toddler’s mouth as there is always the fear of the child biting through the soft rubber, ingesting a piece and choking on it. Parents need to be more vigilant during bath time and use music and biodegradable toys to entertain,” he said.

How to keep bath toys clean

Researchers have found a very high level of microbes and bacteria, including the Legionella and Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, that are often implicated in hospital-borne infections, in the ducky bath toy.

•  After every bath, clean the toys and keep them dry.


•  Use toys that do not have hollow cavities as these become breeding grounds for bacteria.
•  If the cavities cannot be avoided, empty out all the water from them and wash the toy in a diluted solution of vinegar and salt, or any such non-chemical sterile solution.
•  Keep toys out in the sun to dry. Do not store them in damp, moist and dark places.
•  Choose toys made of child-friendly material and organic non-lead colours.
•  Check the toys regularly for wear and tear and get rid of those with torn or brittle parts.