Science has proven that dirty shoes should be left outside the door

(ORDO NEWS) — You probably clean your shoes if you step on something dirty or disgusting (please clean up after your dog!). But when you get home, do you always take off your shoes at the door?

Many people don’t. For many of them, what you put on the soles of your shoes is the last thing they think about when they get home.

We are environmental chemists who have spent a decade studying indoor environments and the pollutants people are exposed to in their homes.

While our exploration of the indoor environment with the DustSafe program is far from complete, when it comes to whether or not to wear shoes at home, science leans towards the latter.

It is best to leave dirt outside the door.

What pollutants are in your home and how did they get there? People spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, so the question of whether or not to wear shoes indoors is not trivial.

Typically, the focus of policy is on the outdoor environment in relation to soil, air quality and environmental risks to public health. However, regulatory interest in indoor air quality is growing.

The things that build up inside your home include more than just dust and dirt from people and pets shedding their hair and skin. About a third of them come from outside, either blown in or trampled on by the soles of shoes.

Some of the microorganisms present on shoes and floors are drug-resistant pathogens, including hospital-associated infectious agents (germs) that are very difficult to treat.

Throw in cancer-causing toxins from asphalt road residues and endocrine-disrupting lawn chemicals, and you can have a whole new look at the dirt on your shoes.

List of harmful substances in the room

Our work includes measuring and evaluating exposure to a range of harmful substances found in homes, including:

– antibiotic resistance genes (genes that make bacteria resistant to antibiotics)

– disinfectant chemicals in the home environment

– microplastic

– perfluorinated chemicals (also known as PFAS or “forever chemicals” due to their tendency to stay in the body and not break down), commonly used in a variety of industrial, household and food packaging products

– radioactive elements.

Much of our work focuses on assessing levels of potentially toxic metals (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead) in homes in 35 countries (including Australia).

These contaminants – most notably the dangerous neurotoxin lead – are odorless and colorless. Therefore, it is not possible to determine if the risk of lead exposure is only in your soil or water pipes, or if it is also present on the floor in your living room.

Scientific evidence shows a very strong link between the lead content in your home and the soil in your yard. The most likely reason for this connection is the dirt brought in from your yard or trampled on your shoes and on the furry paws of your adorable pets.

This connection suggests that it is important to ensure that substances from your external environment remain there (we provide tips here).

A recent Wall Street Journal article argues that shoes in the house are not so bad. The author noted that E. coli, a dangerous bacterium that develops in the intestines of many mammals, including humans, is so widespread that it is found almost everywhere.

Therefore, it should not be surprising that it can be found in smears on the soles of shoes (96 percent of shoe soles, as the article notes).

But let’s clear things up. While it’s nice to be scientific and stick to the term “E. coli,” E. coli, to put it simply, is a stool-associated bacterium.

Whether ours or Fido’s, they are capable of making us seriously ill if we are exposed to them in large quantities. And let’s face it – it’s just disgusting. Why walk around the house when there is a very simple alternative – take off your shoes at the door?

In general, without shoes is better

So are there any downsides to running a house without shoes?

Aside from the occasional splinters on your feet, there aren’t too many downsides from a shoeless home from an environmental health standpoint. If you leave your shoes on the mat at the entrance, potentially dangerous pathogens remain there.

We all know that prevention is better than cure, and taking off your shoes at the door is a simple and easy preventive measure for many of us. Need shoes to support your feet? Easy – just have “closed shoes” that you never wear outside.

There remains the question of “clean house syndrome”, which is associated with increased levels of allergies among children. Some argue that this is due to overly sterile home conditions.

Indeed, some dirt is likely to be beneficial, as studies show that it promotes the immune system and reduces the risk of allergies.

But there are better and less frustrating ways to do this than walking around the house in dirty shoes. Go outside, walk through the bushes, enjoy the beautiful nature.

Just do not bring dirty particles into the house so that they accumulate and pollute our homes.

Mark Patrick Taylor, Chief Ecologist, EPA Victoria; Macquarie University Professor Emeritus; and Gabriel Filippelli, Chancellorial Professor of Geosciences and Executive Director of the Indiana University Environmental Sustainability Institute, IUPUI.


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