You probably clean your shoes as much as possible when you walk in something muddy, slimy or filthy (pick up your dog please!)… But when you get home, do you always take your shoes off at the door?
The majority don’t… Who thinks what he’s dragging under his soles when he finally gets home?
I’m part of a team of environmental chemists, and we’ve spent ten years studying indoor spaces and the contaminants that people are exposed to in their own homes. While our assessment of the indoor environment, through our DustSafe program, is far from complete, science still has some ideas about whether we should put on and take off shoes at home.
It is best to leave your dirt outside the house.
Where do the contaminants in our interiors come from?
People spend up to 90% of their time indoors. The question of whether or not to wear shoes at home is therefore not trivial.
Policy generally focuses on the external environment in terms of soil, air quality and environmental risks to public health. However, regulation is now also increasingly concerned with the issue of indoor air quality.
The material that builds up in your home doesn’t just include dust and grime brought in by your visitors, or the hair left behind by your pets: about a third comes from outside, either from the wind or from the soles of dirty shoes – able to pick up anything that is on the floor.
For the latter, we are not talking about simple dirt, but sometimes about microorganisms such as resistant pathogens, including infectious agents (germs) that are associated in hospitals and that are very difficult to treat.
Add to that the cancer-causing toxins of asphalt debris and the endocrine disruptors of lawn chemicals, and you could see your shoes in a different light.
A short tour of the worst indoor contaminants
Our work involved measuring and evaluating exposure to a range of harmful substances present in homes, including:
Antibiotic-resistant genes (genes that make bacteria resistant to antibiotics),
Disinfecting chemicals in the home environment,
Perfluorinated chemicals (or PFAS, called “eternal chemicals” because of their longevity and tendency to remain in the body without degrading) are widely used in a wide variety of industrial, household and packaging products, food.
Assessing levels of potentially toxic metals (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead) in homes in 35 countries (including Australia and France) is a key focus of our work.
These contaminants – especially lead, a dangerous neurotoxin – are odorless and colorless. So there’s no way to tell if the hazards of lead exposure are only found in your outdoor floors or water pipes or if they’re also on your living room’s hardwood floors.
Our studies nevertheless suggest the existence of a very strong link between the lead present in your home and that present in the soil of your yard.
The most likely reason for this relationship? Drafts, shoes and other dog and cat paws they bring in…
Anticipate problems to avoid them
Hence the importance of making sure materials out of your outdoor environment stay where they are (we have advice here, e.g. mop or damp cloth rather than wipe or dry dus, wash other than work or dusty clothes, etc.)
A recent Wall Street Journal article states that home shoes aren’t all that bad. The author pointed out thatE coli — a potentially dangerous bacterium that thrives primarily in the gut of many mammals, including humans — is so widespread that it is ubiquitous. It is therefore not surprising that it can be extracted from shoe soles (96% of shoe soles, as the article indicates).
But let’s be clear. While it’s nice to be scientific and stick to the term E colithis bacteria, to put it bluntly, is associated with poop…
Whether it’s ours or Medor’s, it can make us very sick if exposed to it at high levels. And let’s face it, it’s just gross.
Why let her walk into your house when you have a very simple alternative: take your shoes off at the door?
Prefer the “without shoes”
Are there any drawbacks to a house without shoes?
Other than the occasional crushed toe, from an environmental health standpoint, there aren’t many downsides to leaving boots and pumps at the entrance of your home. Leaving your shoes on the doormat also leaves potentially dangerous pathogens at the door.
We all know that prevention is much better than treatment. Taking off your shoes is a simple and simple prevention activity for many of us.
Do you need shoes, insoles to support your feet? It’s simple: prefer the slipper or the “inner shoe” that is never worn outside.
There remains the issue of the “sterile home syndrome”, which refers to the increase in allergy rates in children. Some say it’s related to overly sterile homes.
Indeed, a little dirt is probably beneficial, as studies show it helps to develop the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies.
But there are more effective and less disgusting ways to do this than walking around indoors with dirty shoes… Get outside, take a walk outside, enjoy the fresh air!
There is no need to bring home contaminated particles, animal waste or various pathogens that will accumulate and contaminate kitchens and bedrooms considered refuges of peace and security.
Mark Patrick Taylor, Chief Environmental Scientist, EPA Victoria; Honorary Professor, Macquarie University and Gabriel Filippelli, Chancellor’s Professor of Earth Sciences and Executive Director, Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute, IUPUI
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.