Beware of the ball pit.

Scientists say the popular play place for children is not only filled with fun, but also disease-causing bacteria.

It’s not just public ball pits like those found in restaurants that are the problem, either.

Researchers at the University of North Georgia tested ball pits at six physical therapy clinics in the state. The pits are often used to stimulate children with sensory or motor impairments, but the study showed they sometimes go days or even weeks without cleaning. The balls in the pit are also often “found to be contaminated with visible dirt, vomit, feces, or urine, providing a permissive environment for contamination.”

The researchers examined 9-15 balls from different levels of each pit in the study. They found “considerable microbial colonization” in the ball pits, including eight bacteria and a yeast that can cause disease.

Scientists say there was a “considerable variation” in the microorganisms found in different ball pit samples.

“This suggests that clinics utilize different protocols for cleaning and maintenance, potentially representing a broader need to clarify and establish standards that reduce the risk of transmission,” said the study’s lead researcher Mary Ellen Oesterle, EdD, PT.

The bacterial species found can cause a variety of infections, sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia, among other ailments.

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