NewsWorldLeave your shoes outside the house, if you want...

Leave your shoes outside the house, if you want to protect it from contaminants

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Sponges Host Various Types of Bacteria, Study Finds 0:49 Editor’s Note: CNN features the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation. (The Conversation) — You probably clean your shoes if you step on mud or something gross. But do you always take off your shoes when you get home?

There are many people who do not do it because, for many, the last thing we think about when we get home is what we wear on the soles of our shoes. We are environmental chemists with a decade researching the indoor environment and the pollutants people are exposed to inside their own homes. While our indoor research through our DustSafe program is not complete, the science seems to support the notion of not wearing shoes indoors. It is better to leave the dirt outside. What contaminants are in your home? People spend up to 90% of their time at home, so wearing shoes is not a trivial matter. The policy focus is usually on the outside environment, be it the quality of the land or the air, and the risks to public health that this entails. However, regulatory interest in the issue of indoor air quality is growing. The matter that accumulates inside your home not only includes dust and dirt from people and pets that shed fur and fur, but a third of it comes from outside, either blown in by the wind or wear it on the soles of your shoes. Some of the microorganisms on shoes and floors are drug-resistant pathogens, including hard-to-treat germs. Add to that the cancer-causing toxins in asphalt and endocrine-disrupting chemicals in grass, and you might see the grime on your shoes differently. Some Possible Contaminants Our work involves assessing and measuring people’s exposure to harmful substances found in our homes, including: One of our priorities has been to assess the levels of potentially toxic metals (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead) inside homes in 35 countries. These contaminants, and in particular the dangerous neurotoxin lead, are odorless and colorless, so there’s no way to tell if they’re in the soil, pipes, or on your living room floor. Science suggests a strong connection between lead inside your home and that found in the soil in your garden. The most likely reason for this connection is windblown dirt from the garden or your shoes and adorable pets stepping on. This connection also highlights the priority of making sure outdoor pollutants stay out there. An article in The Wall Street Journal argued that it is not so bad to wear shoes inside the house. The author pointed out that the dangerous E. coli bacterium, which thrives in the intestines of many mammals – including humans – is so widely distributed that it is practically everywhere. So it should come as no surprise that it can be in the soles of shoes (96% of shoe soles, as the article pointed out). But let’s be clear: E. coli is, put more simply, the bacteria associated with poop. Whether it’s ours or Fido’s, it has the potential to make us sick if we’re exposed to high levels. And let’s face it: it’s just disgusting. Why walk it around the interior of your house if you have a very simple alternative: take off your shoes at the door? In short, not wearing shoes is better. Are there disadvantages to being without shoes at home? Beyond the occasional stubbed toe, from an environmental health point of view there aren’t many drawbacks to having a house without shoes. Leaving shoes on the doormat also leaves potentially harmful pathogens there. We all know that prevention is much better than treatment, and taking off your shoes at the door is a basic and easy prevention activity for many of us. Do you need supportive shoes for your feet? Easy: just have some “indoor shoes” that you never wear outside. As for the “clean house syndrome” issue, which refers to rising allergy rates among children, some argue that it is related to excessively clean homes. In fact, a little dirt is likely to be beneficial, as studies indicate that it helps build the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies. But there are better and less gross ways to do it than walking around the house with dirty shoes. Go outside, go hiking, enjoy the outdoors. But do not let the dirtiest parts enter the house so that they accumulate and contaminate it. — Mark Patrick Taylor is Chief Environmental Scientist at the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria, Australia and an Honorary Professor at Macquarie University. Gabriel Filippelli is Professor of Earth Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue in Indianapolis and Executive Director of the Indiana University Institute for Environmental Resilience. Taylor received funding through a Citizen Science grant from the Australian Government. Filippelli does not work for, advise, own shares in, or receive funding from any company or organization that may benefit from this article, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliation beyond his academic appointment.
Published under a Creative Commons license by The Conversation.

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