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Researcher Mom Calls Attention to Microbes at Fast-Food Playgrounds

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An Arizona child-development professor and mother of four has launched a campaign to get fast-food restaurants to maintain better cleanliness standards in their playground equipment.  The New York Times reports that after her own kids exclaimed "Yuck!" in a local McDonald's PlayPlace, Erin M. Carr-Jordan visited dozens of restaurant play spaces in 11 states, collecting samples from the equipment surfaces to be analyzed in a lab setting:

What the inspections and lab analyses have revealed is the widespread presence of an array of pathogens, from coliform bacteria to staphylococcus, at levels that experts said indicated that restaurants might not be disinfecting their playlands as diligently as they should.

Those same experts pointed out that germs are everywhere and that they are not always dangerous. They add that hand washing is an important safeguard.

"I'm not shocked or blown out of the water, because this is my business," said Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, who surveyed some of Dr. Carr-Jordan's results. At the same time, Dr. Tierno said, "There are very high counts, and that means these places are not cleaned properly or not cleaned at all."

Carr-Jordan has formed a non-profit organization called Kids Play Safe to call attention to the problem and push for legislation mandating more rigorous cleanliness standards for the playgrounds.

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