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There are hearts breaking wide open all over the world. It was recently discovered that the nearly 60-year-old Sophie the Giraffe children's chew/teething toy could potentially be dangerous due to mold. While the moldy chew toy problem is not unique to Sophie the Giraffe, owners of the $25 piece of rubber are up in arms after the recent discovery. The toy has been heralded by celebrities, including Madonna, and was even featured in the Tom Selleck, 80s classic, "Three Men and a Baby."
Basically, toys like Sophie the Giraffe, which have air trapped inside with virtually no air circulation inside, can easily develop mold if water finds it way inside the toy. Frequently, and extremely commonly, anytime you give anything to a baby, they're going to put it into their mouths. If it falls on the floor, parents frequently will wash a toy that gets frequently chewed on. However, all that exposure to water increases the risk of water getting inside and mold forming.
Don't Blame Sophie, Blame Science
While Sophie's design may actually be what causes the mold to form, the rubber giraffe's form issue is not unique. Countless rubber duckies and other bath time and chew toys have the same design flaw that allows moisture to get trapped inside, creating that perfect environment for mold to grow.
Frequently, toy manufacturers will include warnings to avoid submerging the toy in water, or cleaning instructions that explain that only a damp cloth should be used. While Sophie's makers issue these exact warnings, parents may be quick to forget, or may never have even seen or read the warnings. Currently, it does not appear that the manufacturer is going to issue a recall or provide angry customers with anything more than an explanation of how the mold likely resulted from a failure to properly clean or store the rubber giraffe.
Thankfully, there have been no reported injuries. However, many doctors were quick to respond to the concerns of parents about mold injuries from toys like Sophie that can contain hidden mold. Generally, while mold can cause respiratory issues, among other problems, reactions to mold are generally mild. Additionally, not all mold is toxic, and even if it is the color black, it may not be the "black mold" we've been told to beware.
Specifically for Sophie, because the one hole is located on Sophie's underside, it is unlikely that the mold on the inside of Sophie would be inhaled or ingested because it is unlikely that a child would, or even could, bite that part of the rubber giraffe.
If your child has been injured as a result of a toy, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer.