Protect yourself and your baby by laying a barrier between your baby and the surface as well as washing your hands after each diaper change.
While many assume a changing table in a public restroom is a safe place to lay your baby while changing a diaper, there is strong evidence that states otherwise. Even though there are rumors circulating the internet about drug residue being found on changing tables 9 out of 10 times, the real threats may be the ones you expect… bacteria and feces.
In a recent lab study conducted by Theresa Marchetta, a Call7 Investigator, drew a scary conclusion. The tests searched public changing tables for the presence of bacteria and coliforms, a nicer way of saying fecal matter. Once the swabs were returned to the lab the colonies of bacteria that grew were counted. Dr. Michelle Barron, an expert in the field of infectious disease at the University of Colorado Hospital, stated that regardless of the number of colonies, the presence of any bacterial contamination raised a level of concern in her mind, as they have no way to be sure what types of bacteria are present.
When analyzing the results of a big box store and a library, Barron found the samples tested positive for fecal matter. The dangers of babies coming in contact with fecal matter include the risk of infections spread through contact and ingestion.
Additionally, every sample had some level of bacteria. The locations tested with fewer than ten colonies were rest stops, the same big box store, and a fast food restaurant. Places with a mid-range of bacteria colonies (between 10 and 100) were a city building, the library with the feces, mall restrooms, and an airport. The locations with over 100 were a hospital, another big box store, and a coffee shop.
This study teaches us that the location does not necessarily determine the cleanliness of the bathroom, particularly the changing stations. The biggest risks from previous cases of surface contamination include salmonella and shigella.
So, next time you lay your baby down for a diaper change, think twice. In a perfect world, we would wipe down the counter before every quick change, but realistically that does not happen.