5 indoor play lands tested for germs: See hidden camera investigation results

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DENVER -- The cold snap in the Denver metro area has parents seeking indoor play areas, but how clean are the cartoon characters and bouncy balls?

A Denver mother of three often wonders if the risks associated with going to a public play area are worth it.  “It’s inevitable, when one gets sick they all get sick,” Angela Archambeault said.

Fox31 Denver took hidden cameras and approved swabs and secretly swiped the nooks and crevices of five locations including:
-- Little Monkey Bizness on Colorado Boulevard
-- the play area at Cherry Creek Mall
-- Tree House Discovery in Highlands Ranch
-- Buckaroos in Colorado Mills Mall in Lakewood
-- Fun City in Littleton

Lab technicians with EMSL Analytical analyzed our swabs for bacteria.

Playground Germs Header

Results show our swabs from four locations did contain bacteria, just not harmful bacteria. Microbiologist Barbara Shepherd studied the results. “It tells me that it’s extremely clean.” Sheperd said. She found no signs of germs at Little Monkey Bizness, the play area at Cherry Creek Mall and Tree House Discovery.

Lab results show Tree House Discovery located on County Line Road in Highlands Ranch was spic and span when we swabbed the location in January. Owner, Katy King told us it’s a second home for her grandson so cleanliness is both a top priority and personal.

The test results from Buckaroos show different types of bacteria, but nothing that could make your child sick. The swabs picked up on organisms typically found in soil. “It’s not as clean as the other places.” Sheperd said.

Buckaroos owner Jared Vasold said that dirt exists because they specialize in hands on activities like gold panning that involve sand and minerals. “If dirt is the worst we have here, since we sell dirt, I can’t really complain. I played in it when I was a kid, so?” Vasold said.

Our test took a turn for the worse at Fun City.

There our samples picked up traces of bacteria called Bacillus cereus which can cause stomach flu like symptoms.  Shepherd said it can cause “nausea, diarrhea and vomiting…”

Results also revealed another bacterium called Rothia dentocariosa, which Shepherd said can cause your child to develop a cavity, if they lick the same surface.  And our swabs indicated a third bacterium which is found in people with urinary tract infections. We requested an interview with Fun City but instead we received this statement:

“Cleanliness is a part of our employee culture and includes specific daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning projects… We are always looking for ways to improve our facility and are planning a multi-million dollar renovation to start this spring.”

Little Monkey Bizness’ owner told us they wipe down their entire facility with sanitizer twice a day and do a more thorough cleaning in the evenings.  Cherry Creek also credits their 3-times-a-day cleaning schedule for being safe. They clean overnight and afternoons at 2 p.m. and evenings at 6 p.m.

LINK: EMSL Analytical lab test results by swab

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