Do you take your shoes off at the front door? If not, you may be tracking in all sorts of nastiness into your house. In fact, a recent study done by the University of Arizona found an average of 421,000 different bacteria on shoes.
Some of the bacteria found on the shoes included: Escherichia coli, known to cause intestinal and urinary tract infections, meningitis and diarrheal disease; Klebsiella pneumonia, a common source for wound and bloodstream infections as well as pneumonia; and Serratia ficaria, a rare cause of infections in the respiratory tract and wounds.
Another study by University of Houston study found that 39% of shoes contained bacteria C. diff (Clostridium difficile), an antibiotic-resistant strain that often leads to complications in hospital patients.
Much of the bacteria comes from fecal material that we walk on. This can include bird droppings, dog waste and human waste from public restrooms.
Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at U of Arizona said, “The common occurrence (96 percent) of coliform and E. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors,” said Gerba. “Our study also indicated that bacteria can be tracked by shoes over a long distance into your home or personal space after the shoes were contaminated with bacteria.”
Bacteria is not the only thing you can trek into the house with your shoes. Chemicals and toxins such as pesticides can also come inside from lawn chemicals, coal tar from asphalt roads and gasoline from rainwater. Although the risk of contracting illnesses from these toxins is comparatively small, such toxins can build up over time with prolonged exposure. And children and pets are more at risk because they crawl and walk closer to the floor’s surface.
There are solutions to keeping these potentially dangerous germs and chemicals out of your home. Washing shoes with detergent in a washing machine could reduce bacteria by 90% or more, according to the University of Arizona’s study. Washing your floors and carpets with disinfectants also reduces bacteria exposure. But the best and simplest solution by far is to take off your shoes at the door! And if you happen to walk barefoot outdoors, may I suggest a foot wash as soon as you come inside?
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