General Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

Should empty cardboard toilet paper tubes be used for pre-school craft projects?

Asked by LuckyGuy (38463points) October 28th, 2015

For many years the local pre-school occasionally asks parents to save empty toilet paper rolls so they can be used for craft projects. The children enjoy making things like: robots, telescopes, musical instruments, etc.

Recently, someone pointed out that the tubes can be contaminated with E. coli from either toilet flush splash or someone touching them with contaminated hands.

Is this a valid concern? How long does E. coli live on dry cardboard? Are there any cases of children getting sick from playing with toilet paper tubes?

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44 Answers

snowberry's avatar

E-Colin is killed at 160 degrees F. So stick ‘em in the oven at that temperature and leave them long enough to heat through. Done.

janbb's avatar

It ounds like a pretty farfetched worry to me. Are we going to sanitize the whole world and then have asthmatic, allergic kids with no immune systems?

cazzie's avatar

They were saying exactly that here last year. I think @snowberry s idea is a good one for anyone worried.

thorninmud's avatar

Looks like E. coli survives up to 4 days on exposed surfaces (research), so there is a theoretical risk. But frankly, I’d bet there’s already at least as much E. coli on the hands of those children or the myriad other surfaces they touch every day.

LuckyGuy's avatar

This really seems to be an over-the-top example of germophobia. One parent raised the concern. (probably read it on the interwebz)
If the tubes are stored in a dry place for a week before use maybe that will allay her fears.
I can’t find any case were a child was sickened by E coli from toilet paper rolls brought to school.

Strauss's avatar

I agree with @LuckyGuy. It’s sounds like extreme germophobia. If we raise our children in a germ-free environment, their bodies will not develop the antibodies necessary for a healthy life.

chyna's avatar

As a teenager, those around me made bowls out of toilet paper rolls and aluminum foil to smoke marijuana out of. So the bowls made direct contact with their mouths. As far as I know, those people are still alive.
As a side note, I did not participate.

elbanditoroso's avatar

First world problem. People who live in jungles and use leaves to clean themselves don’t have to deal with conundra like this.

canidmajor's avatar

The recent concern about fecal mist seems to be spotty and silly at best.
People move or cover their toothbrushes, but how many cover their eyes or plug their nostrils when they flush?
They carefully wash their their hands but don’t cover or change their clothes right away.
Do they cover the TP that they use to blow their noses a few minutes later?

TP tubes? Really?

Strauss's avatar

@chyna I’m not one of those who were around you as a teenager, but I remember doing that. We never thought twice about it, certainly never thought of the tube as a possible contaminator.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m trying to come up with an answer to address and quiet the parent’s concern.
It seems like simply waiting a week before using the tubes will be more than sufficient.

I still can’t find any case of this being a problem. I saw something about E coli and parrots but the source sold bird toys.

By the way in Japan the really fancy toilets have an exhaust fan at the rear of the seat. The offending odors are drawn out and up through pipes hidden in the wall so they cannot spread in the room.

jca's avatar

I agree with others who have said we’ve all been through worse (and have our ancestors) and yet not had health issues as a result. Also, this is how our bodies become immune to germs (which was why, when my daughter was a baby, I didn’t have the rule “you must wash your hands before you touch the baby.” Touch away, unwashed! She rarely got sick). However, if the mom even had this thought and then verbalized it, she’s probably the anxious type that is disgusted at the thought of anything unsanitary and probably it will take more than an offhand comment to calm her.

Seek's avatar

According to the CDC

There were 189 cases of E Coli that led to hospitalization in the reporting year 2009–10. 46 of those were able to be directly linked to beef consumption.

In comparison, In 2009, ”...248,418 children (age 19 or younger) were treated in U.S. EDs for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or TBI” CDC

They should spazz less about poop mist, and more about school football.

canidmajor's avatar

I mean, if you really want to freak out, think about this: There is poop in your body RIGHT NOW!!!

Dutchess_III's avatar

THERE ARE BACTERIA IN YOUR INTESTINES TOO!

ragingloli's avatar

There are 10 times more bacteria in and on your body than there are human cells.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Please give me something so I can silence this very vocal woman. The response has to be respectful and convincing.
The fact that I can’t find a single documented case might be helpful.
The fact that E. coli becomes less viable 48 hours after application.

I could say that the E. coli produced and spread in her very very own bathroom is X (need a number) times more virulent than those found on the cardboard tubes.

Clearly this is something she read on the web but has no common sense filter. Her ignorance is causing trouble.

jca's avatar

Let’s all Google and report back -

jca's avatar

I would guess her hangup is that even if the threat of e coli is small, it’s the thought of sh** being on the tubes and her precious little Johny touching it that’s upsetting.

I just googled “e coli toilet paper tubes” and there’s a ton of stuff from mommy blogs.

janbb's avatar

(It’s my personal opinion that parents have run amok recently but I suspect my parents thought that of me in other ways in the past.)

Strauss's avatar

@janbb I’ve experienced the “parent run-amok” of which you speak, as far back as the seventies.

Cupcake's avatar

I’d say something like, “Gee, I can’t seem to find any clinical or biological studies that investigated either the trace remnants of E. Coli on toilet paper rolls or possible related infectious outbreaks. It’s probably not a huge concern, but to be safe… let’s just set the dry tubes aside for a week before using (to kill any potential E. Coli without a biological host) and have the kids wash their hands after the craft.”

If that doesn’t work, I don’t think anything will… short of some bullshit Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer scheme.

Is she also concerned with the warehouse rat feces contamination on little Joey’s boxes of crayons or tops of little Rebecca’s juice boxes? You could probably passive-aggressively suggest some other obsessions she could devote her time to…

janbb's avatar

@Yetanotheruser I think parents are more hovering and child-centric today from things I read and observe. Of course, my grandsons are perfect and deserve all that attention (and being raised in France with its own set of nuttiness.) :-P

Strauss's avatar

@janbb It would seem so. The term “helicopter parent” did not occur until relatively recently. The behavior is the same, but I think you are correct.

I would have to say the same thing about my grandson, although he is young (1½) and his dad (my son) is facing some of his own challenges

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Cupcake I like the way you worded that response. Excellent.
It shows concern and offers an, albeit unneeded, solution.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So…exactly how does the ecoli wind up on the card board tube? If it’s flying about in the air, then it’s on the toilet paper too, which we grab bare handed.

I think we should just do away with toilets all together. THAT is the root of the problem.

cazzie's avatar

Ah
... that whole myth about life being precious. Load of bollacks.

Cupcake's avatar

@LuckyGuy Starting with “Gee” really minimizes the science, epidemiology and underlying sarcasm of the response.

Coloma's avatar

I find the worry to be ridiculous. How many of us have ever gotten E. Coli period, let alone from a TP roll? People are so freaking paranoid, there is probably a lot worse bacteria under these kids fingernails and clearly, nobody is dead yet.
I remember making a robot with the cardboard TP tubes as a kid, way back in 2nd grade circa 1966–67, here I am, alive and well almost 50 years later.

I guess bringing your hamster to school for show and tell will soon be considered a bio-hazard and gawd forbid, licking the cookie batter bowl. lol

jerv's avatar

My take is that they pose far less risk than doorknobs. The kids that could get sick from a TP tube likely die long before they are even school age due to immunodeficiency issues.

Coloma's avatar

@jerv LOL yes, lets remove all door knobs, nasty bacteria ridden things. haha

LostInParadise's avatar

Have you ever seen the official rules for cleaning after using restroom facilities. After washing your hands, they recommend using the paper towel to open the door and then disposing of the paper towel. This makes perfectly good sense, but how many people actually do this? Use of restrooms no doubt poses a much greater threat of E coli contamination than using TP tubes.

ibstubro's avatar

Bath tissue

Eliminate the toilet and the shit will disappear.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I had a thought @LuckyGuy. Maybe you could print out a list of 500,000 illness that her son could catch and from where?

Coloma's avatar

@LostInParadise I almost always do that, use a paper towel and then toss it in the trash on my way out. Recently I had an auto-flush toilet detonate while I was still on it, I freaking HATE the toilets! So disgusting, I was at the movies and was totally sprayed with toilet water. Gah!

Seek's avatar

I’m just saying, I used to be a preschool teacher. Everything in the classroom is bleached down once a day – at the end of the day. By 10am the next morning literally everything has been touched by a child that not two seconds before had their hands up their nose or down their pants. One teacher with 18 three year olds = no time to spend all day disinfecting tiny fingers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree with @Seek. We have to get back to reasonable. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before cooking or eating.

Don’t let food, especially meat, sit out at room temperature for hours and hours and then eat it or serve it.

We just need to get back to common sense. If humans were that frail, we would have become extinct millions of years ago.

ibstubro's avatar

OMG. And if the ‘ahem’ donator ate hotdogs the day before the deposit-and-smear, likely the kids now have an elevated risk of cancer as well as E. colI.

Maybe you should spring that on mommy.

jca's avatar

@LuckyGuy: Please update us as to what you tell her and what the outcome is with whether or not the tubes are used.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Unless she blabs off again we intend to do nothing . We are prepared to quote something along the lines of @Cupcake ‘s answer and use the collected tubes at least 4 days after collection.
Actually we use the tubes weeks after collection so this will not be a problem.

Cupcake's avatar

@LuckyGuy Just don’t store them in plastic bags as that could retain moisture.

ibstubro's avatar

I collect around 10 tubes a month using a system similar to this, @LuckyGuy if you want me to save them.
Nominal shipping.

If Mommy Direst is so concerned, tell her to save her paper towel tubes for her kids, and you’ll cut both ends off to make then the proper, sanitary, length.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ibstubro Thanks for the offer. We have plenty. One word to the parents and they are happy to bring in some.
Great idea about the paper towel tube. She can even write her child’s name inside.

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