An Arizona mother has launched a campaign against unsanitary conditions at fast-food restaurant playgrounds, saying that ball pits and other play equipment for children are too often filthy and crawling with potentially dangerous bacteria.
Erin Carr-Jordan, a developmental psychologist, has visited more than 50 play areas at fast-food restaurants in the United States to document the sanitary conditions and draw attention to the need for regulations on disinfection practices, the Chicago Tribune reports.
She has undertaken the campaign while on a summer road trip with her family, motivated by a recent visit with her toddler to a filthy McDonald’s playground back home in Arizona.
"It was unacceptable, completely unacceptable," a McDonalds representative told the Chicago Tribune.
Carr-Jordan told a CBS station in California that lab tests of swabs from playgrounds found meningitis and gonorrhea, as well as “coli forms which is indicative of fecal matter and if you found that in any pool you have to actually close the pool down.”
Carr-Jordan posted a video on YouTube explaining the “shocking discovery of what is really lurking in children's playlands,” and the lack of safety regulations.
A 1999 study found elevated levels of bacteria in ball pits, with researchers recommending routine disinfection and hand washing to make the play areas safe. Carr-Jordan has been inquiring about restaurant chains’ disinfection policies while on her road trip, but says that sometimes sanitary practices aren't followed.
"Kids often are exposed more (they put their hands in the mouth more often) and are also more vulnerable to more severe illness," Joan Rose from the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment at Michigan State University wrote in an email to the Chicago Tribune.
"It is extremely important that the industry (like McDonald's), facilities themselves and states have good public health policies around cleaning and disinfection.”