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Phoenix Forward

University of Phoenix instructor crusading for cleaner playgrounds

Fast food play lands are riddled with dangerous bacteria, says Erin Carr-Jordan, PhD

Erin Carr-Jordan, PhD

Unsanitary conditions at fast-food play lands can endanger children's health and safety

Dr. Erin Carr-Jordan, a mother of four and University of Phoenix instructor in the College of Social Sciences, was horrified by the unsanitary conditions at a fast-food restaurant where she took one of her children for an emergency bathroom stop earlier this year. She filmed and posted video of the filth on YouTube™. She began taking samples from scores of restaurants in her travels across the United States, and paid for lab studies of contaminant samples out of her own pocket.

Those lab studies found that dangerous, pathogenic bacteria, including multiple strains of harmful staphylococcus, enterobacteriaceae, Bacillus cereus (potentially fatal source of food-borne illness), and even multiple drug-resistant strains of acinetobacter (which can cause potentially fatal infections, including meningitis) are commonplace in fast-food play lands.

When restaurant managers and the fast-food industry ignored Carr-Jordan’s demands to clean up, she went to the public instead. The national media picked up her story, and Carr-Jordan and her work have since made appearances on CNN and Good Morning America as well as in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Arizona Republic and many more major media outlets.

My whole goal in doing this is, children need a safe place to play.

Fast-food play lands can endanger children in multiple ways

While the major media has focused on the multiple dangerous bacterial strains Carr-Jordan has found, what they haven’t discussed is how opportunistic pathogens have the potential to impact young children’s psychological development as well as their physical health. Carr-Jordan knows first-hand how potentially damaging these pathogens can be.

“I have a keen understanding of what acquiring a serious illness or experiencing trauma can do to a child,” says Carr-Jordan. “I’m a parent of both a premature infant and a child who suffered major trauma. There are a myriad of potential negative outcomes. Knowing this, when I saw the uncleanliness in that first restaurant, I had to do something about it.”

A mother on a mission, Carr-Jordan seeks expert consultation on her fast-food play land project from a fellow University of Phoenix instructor, Dr. Annissa Furr, a microbiologist who specializes in immunology. Furr helps Carr-Jordan review the lab results and provides feedback related to potential disease impact. Both of these crusading women are leveraging their expertise and pooling their resources on a project that has national impact.

“A safe place to play”

While she's thankful for the media attention, Carr-Jordan is frustrated by the indifference of the fast food industry and even elected officials. “The restaurant managers basically ignored me when I complained, even when I showed them the evidence,” she says. “Not only that, nobody in the government is stepping up to support increased regulations, even though they’re fully aware of the problem via what’s been covered in the media. And that is shocking.”

She’s not giving up. Carr-Jordan continues to collect data from restaurants across the country. “It’s pretty evident that this is a nationwide problem,” she says.

While continuing to teach her graduate psychology students at University of Phoenix about how children’s development is directly impacted by their environments, she educates the public at the same time. She even set up her own charitable foundation, Kids Play Safe, to raise public awareness and lobby legislators to increase health and safety regulations on fast-food play lands. “My whole goal in doing this is, children need a safe place to play.”

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