New Reasons To Be Afraid, Very Afraid: Bath Toys And Baby Slings Are Bad
There is, it seems, no end to the things that can cause harm to your family. Strollers, playgrounds, sippy cups, plastic toys, painted toys, toys with removable parts... pretty much anything that is a fixture in family life, it seems, is a hazard. Well, now you can add bath toys and baby-wearing to that list. Are you a parent? Good luck sleeping at night.
The baby-wearing issue came to light the other week, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that it would be issuing a warning about a smothering risk associated with certain baby slings. Then, this week, more than 1 million Infantino baby slings were recalled after the Commission linked them to a handful of infant deaths. According to USA Today, "the Consumer Product Safety Commission said babies could suffocate in the soft fabric slings. The agency urged parents to immediately stop using the slings for babies under 4 months... The recall involves 1 million Infantino "SlingRider" and "Wendy Bellissimo" slings in the United States and 15,000 in Canada."
Gawker joked about the whole thing - "God. As if Park Slope parents don't have enough to deal with" - and although the jokes are, I suppose, in poor taste (somebody lost their baby to a sling, which is indisputably terrible) I absolutely get that impulse. What else can we do but joke about the seemingly infinite list of hazards that threaten us and our children? I don't know about you, but panic fatigue is threatening to completely deaden my senses to anything other than the most immediately threatening dangers.
Like baths, and bath toys.
According to Divine Caroline, baths are the new toxic sludge:
"According to a recent Today show segment on hidden and surprising sources of dirt, tub toys can harbor bacteria and microbes that are potentially hazardous to children. Dr. Philip Tierno, a microbiologist from New York University who was interviewed on the show, said that the rubber duckies and other plastic trinkets children love to play with can accumulate bacteria at an alarming rate. “It’s filth,” he told Today. Since bathwater itself is full of the dissolved dirt, bacteria, and other microorganisms covering our bodies, that toxic cocktail can coat the toys, too, if they’re not cleaned regularly. “Bathwater becomes, literally, a bacterial soup,” Tierno said. “The toys are the depository of these organisms."
Awesome. So I've returned the finger-chopping stroller, banished the BPA-infected bottles and tossed the sling, and just settled in with baby and some rubber duckies for a nice, relaxing bath... and I'm to understand that that lovely bath we're soaking in is "bacterial soup"?
It gets worse:
"Dirty tub water isn’t the only thing that contaminates bath toys; they’re also susceptible to microorganisms from the toilet. In 1975, University of Arizona professor Charles Gerba published a scientific paper detailing the phenomenon of aerosolization; he found that whenever a toilet flushes, the force of the flush creates a vapor cloud of water and other toilet effluvia. His experiments showed that these vapor clouds, which can include fecal material, bacteria, and other harmful microbes, stayed in the air for up to twenty minutes before eventually landing on other bathroom surfaces, including sinks, toothbrushes, and tubs. (panicked bolding and italicizing mine) Even though the amount of bacteria dispersed is still less, on average, than what’s living on your kitchen sponge, it’s still enough to give parents pause."
What is giving me pause - and not for the first time - is the culture of panic that these stories contribute to. Vapor clouds of effluvia from the toilet are poisoning my children's toothbrushes? Carrying my baby too close might smother him? DO I NEED TO MOVE MY FAMILY INTO A BUBBLE AND NEVER, EVER ALLOW MYSELF OR ANYONE OR ANYTHING ELSE TO TOUCH THEM?
Really. I understand that it's important that we look out for hazards in day-to-day to life, and that we strive to keep our children safe. Like, duh. But do I really need to worry about toilet vapor clouds? Can I not just continue tossing bath toys in the dishwasher? Am I not sensible enough to stay aware of my baby's position in a sling? Does all of this not just keep us in a state of unnecessary terror? What's next: will they tell me that television isn't good for children? That a steady diet of Happy Meals isn't good for them, either? That vapor clouds of evil emanating from the Wiggles live show can be toxic to my sanity?
There needs to be a Safety Commission report on reports that are hazardous to my mental health. Somebody get on that, please.