When parents discovered mold in their “Tommee Tippee Sippee” cups last year, people everywhere were horrified. Well, we have more bad news: Sophie the Giraffe isn’t safe either. Recent reports from parents reveal people have found mold growing inside of the popular toddler teething toy.
As a pediatric dentist, Dana Chianese recommends teething toys to parents every single day, including Sophie the Giraffe (which her two boys under the age of three prefer), but not anymore. A month ago she decided to clean the toy and noticed the air coming out of the hole smelled musty. “I decided to cut into Sophie out of curiosity and discovered a science experiment living inside,” Chianese told Goodhousekeeping.com. “Smelly, ugly mold living in my infant’s favorite chew toy!”
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Chianese says she always cleaned the toy according to instructions, using hot, soapy water with a damp sponge and never submerging it into water. “It still hurts my heart to know that for months I allowed my babies to chew on moldy toys,” she says. “I no longer buy any chew toys with a hole or recommend any to my patients.”
And she’s not the only one: On Amazon, one reviewer tried to alert others to what she found when she cut the legs off of her child’s teething toy and even shared a picture for proof: “Beware!! If you have a drooly baby, moisture will get in the hole and you’ll end up with mold!” says Amazon user Stephanie Opera. “We’ve had ours for two years and the entire inside is coated with black mold!”
Meanwhile, a user on What to Expect shared her own pictures of the moldy toy. She says she only found the mold after she chopped off the legs after hearing reports of them getting caught in the throats of other babies. Let’s just say, she had no clue she was about the uncover the real danger inside.
Dr. Lyuba Konopasek, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Medical Center told Care.com exposure to mold in toys is usually not something to be too alarmed about, unless your child has a immune disorder. However, if your child does have a mold allergy, they may start experiencing symptoms such as coughing or itchy eyes.
So what can you do? “The only way to prevent mold inside plastic toys is to make sure they are cleaned and thoroughly dried,” says Carolyn Forte, the Director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. The best way to clean washable plastic toys is in hot sudsy water or in the dishwasher. Then, disinfect them with a solution of 1/2 cup Clorox bleach per gallon of water. Soak them for five minutes, rinse and air dry.
How often you should clean these toys depends on the frequency of use. If used daily, Forte recommends cleaning them at least once a week. And don’t let these items sit in water or leave them with water trapped inside between uses or cleanings. See update below for more information.
Update, 1/16/2017: When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for Sophie the Giraffe, shared the following statement:
First of all, it’s important to know that Sophie la Girafe [Sophie the Giraffe] is composed of 100% natural rubber, so the cleaning instructions have to be carefully respected. As indicated on the packaging and in an explanatory leaflet inside the packaging, we recommend to clean the surface of Sophie la Girafe with a damp cloth. It should not be immersed in the water nor rinsed off, to prevent water from getting inside, as she may become damaged. We thus would like to emphasize on the fact that is it important, while cleaning the product, that no water gets inside the whole. As of now, we have not been contacted by Mrs. Chianese nor Mrs. Opera and were not aware of the situation before reading your article. It is thus difficult for us to comment on the current situation, as we haven’t had the chance to examine the products. Please know that each complaint received is taken very seriously and that the return of the product is always asked for further examination. Furthermore, please know that the safety of children and satisfaction of their parents is our main priority. For the past 55 years, we have always strived to exceed security standards and all of our products comply with the most stringent global standards.
Update, 1/17/2017: After hearing from the manufacturers of Sophie the Giraffe, we checked in again with Carolyn Forte, Director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “You should always follow the advice for cleaning a toy that a manufacturer provides,” she says. “Sometimes there is special care required that may be different from other toys your child owns. Always check a toy’s packaging for care instructions before discarding it or if the packaging has already been tossed, check the manufacturer’s website.”
That said, Forte questioned how practical a teething toy might be that can’t be thoroughly washed.