JAN 19, 2017 3:21 PM PST

Moldy Sophie? Keep Calm and Clean On, Say Experts

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Sophie the Giraffe, an ever-popular children’s teething toy is under the hot seat this week as curious parents cut open the toy to discovered swaths of black mold inside the toy.  What are worried parents to do? Fortunately, health experts say to keep calm and clean on.

Famous for being French-made and produced with natural rubber rather than plastics, Sophie has been the go-to teething toy for French moms for decades.

Image: Dana ChianeseBut a few weeks ago, Dana Chianese, a pediatric dentist, was cleaning Sophie for her two sons when she noticed a strange odor coming from a hole in the toy. "I decided to cut into Sophie out of curiosity and discovered a science experiment living inside," said Chianese to Goodhousekeeping.com. "Smelly, ugly mold living in my infant's favorite chew toy!"

Chianese’s discovery went viral, as concerned parents everywhere wondered what was growing inside their child’s Sophie.

But the situation may look worse than it really is, according to health experts. According to Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, mold is everywhere. And most of the time, they’re harmless.

Dr. Saul Hymes, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Stony Brook Medicine, agrees. “The main issue everyone gets worried about is black mold and toxic mold," said Hymes. "But mold in this sense wouldn't be something to worry about unless the kid has a major immune issue such as leukemia, cancer, [is on] chemotherapy, has had an organ transplant, or has an allergy to mold,” he said.

Because Sophie is a hollow toy with an opening, mold spores anywhere can make its way into the inside of the toy. Then, the dark and damp interior provides the ideal environment for the mold to thrive.

Importantly, Sophie may not be the only toy that is teeming with unknown microbes. "Any hollow toy that is rubber or plastic is receptive to mold growth," said Hymes. "It just happened to be that someone cut into Sophie and found it."

Admittedly, just knowing that mold isn’t unexpected inside of a toy may not quite enough to quell the worry for some parents. After all, these teething toys are meant to go into their child’s mouth. How do parents ease the worry that they’re putting their child at risk?

First, Sophie comes with very specific cleaning instructions that parents should heed. “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 hole,” according to a spokesperson for Calisson, Sophie the Giraffe's distributor.

If no water means no mold inside Sophie, perhaps the manufacturers should consider redesigning the toy to prevent water from entering the toy’s interiors. In the mean time, some experts say that any toy that show signs of mold may be cleaned with diluted bleach or detergent and fully air dried to get rid of the mold. "Don't just use water, as that promotes mold. Use a capsule of bleach or dish soap and squeeze the toy in and out while washing," said Hymes. "Let it soak for while, and then dry out."

Additional sources: NBC News, Live Science

About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 26, 2022
Cardiology
Only 20% of Americans Have Optimal Heart Health
JUL 26, 2022
Only 20% of Americans Have Optimal Heart Health
According to the AHA's updated metrics, only 1 in 5 Americans has "high" cardiovascular health.
AUG 04, 2022
Health & Medicine
Parechovirus Infections are Increasing in Infants
AUG 04, 2022
Parechovirus Infections are Increasing in Infants
This year, 29 infants have been admitted to the Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center with human p ...
AUG 25, 2022
Cancer
Nearly Half of Global Cancer Deaths Attributed to Behavioral Risk Factors
AUG 25, 2022
Nearly Half of Global Cancer Deaths Attributed to Behavioral Risk Factors
Cancer is a broad description of various related diseases resulting from abnormal and excessive cell growth.  While ...
AUG 28, 2022
Immunology
Understanding When Recovery is Going Well, or Not
AUG 28, 2022
Understanding When Recovery is Going Well, or Not
When there is illness or injury, there is inflammation; immune molecules and cells race to the site of infection or tiss ...
SEP 15, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
Critical Success Factors for Automating Laboratory Workflows
SEP 15, 2022
Critical Success Factors for Automating Laboratory Workflows
Staff shortages and increasing sample volume are the factors typically driving laboratories to assess their current work ...
SEP 20, 2022
Cardiology
Increased Duration, Frequency, and Intensity of Exercise Lowers Heart Risks
SEP 20, 2022
Increased Duration, Frequency, and Intensity of Exercise Lowers Heart Risks
More moderate-intensity exercise per week may drastically lower heart failure risk.
Loading Comments...