The findings are "potentially representing a broader need to clarify and establish standards that reduce the risk of transmission," said one researcher

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Ball pit
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Despite their colorful atmosphere and beckoning promises of active fun for kids, a new study has found that ball pits can contain germs that could potentially carry serious health risks.

The findings, published last month in the American Journal of Infection Control journal, came after researchers from the University of North Georgia looked at six balls pits located in inpatient and outpatient physical-therapy clinics in Georgia and randomly selected between nine and 15 balls to test.

According to Science Daily, “The study found considerable microbial colonization in ball pits that were tested, including eight bacteria and one yeast that could cause disease.”

“Bacterial colonization was found to be as high as thousands of cells per ball, which clearly demonstrates an increased potential for transmission of these organisms to patients and the possibility of infection in these exposed individuals,” the study read.

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Ball pit
Child in a ball pit
| Credit: Getty

Researchers found 31 species of bacteria and one of yeast, including Staphylococcus hominis, which can cause infections in the bloodstream; Acinetobacter lwofii, which can lead to meningitis, urinary-tract infections and more.

Enterococcus faecalis — which was also found in the study’s samples — can cause the latter conditions as well as endocarditis and septicemia, while Streptococcus oralis (another bacteria found) can lead to adult respiratory distress syndrome, streptococcal shock and endocarditis.

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One issue, the results suggest, is that the pits aren’t being cleaned as often as they perhaps should be. As the study notes, “Clinics may go days or even weeks between cleanings, which may allow time for microorganisms to accumulate and grow to levels capable of transmission and infection.”

Explains lead researcher Mary Ellen Oesterle, EdD, PT, according to Science Daily, “We found considerable variation in the number of microorganisms between the different ball pit samples.”

“This suggests that clinics utilize different protocols for cleaning and maintenance, potentially representing a broader need to clarify and establish standards that reduce the risk of transmission,” she added.