Remove shoes to cut down on contaminants

Well folks, Spring has sprung and everyone is out working, tending the yard or spending free time enjoying the great outdoors. Unfortunately, we often bring the great outdoors inside with us. Did you know that approximately 40% of the contaminants in your home are brought in from outdoors on your shoes, your clothes, and on pet’s paws and fur? In fact, the greatest concentration of contaminants in the home, are found on the floor near our exterior doorways.

Children are at greatest risk of exposure to these contaminants because they crawl and play on floors and tend to put their hands in their mouths. People with asthma and weakened immune systems are also in greater danger from pollutants brought into the home. This is an especially alarming statistic for farm families, persons living in rural areas near farms, or people who use a lot of chemicals for yard care. Farmers often use pesticides and herbicides of their crops which can end up on their clothing or be absorbed into their skin. Some people spray chemicals on their grass and plants in order to maintain a beautiful, weed free and pest free yard. These chemicals can be brought into the home on work boots and clothing, and family members are exposed through contact with each other. I was raised on a Colquitt County farm and remember many times when my Daddy would scoop me up for a hug, and he often smelled of the chemicals he had been spraying on his crops. Back then we didn’t know any better, but now we do.

So, how do we cut down on these pollutants entering our homes? Here are some quick tips that are relatively easy to implement. People who work in the agriculture community, in any industry where harsh chemicals are used, or who use chemicals during yard work should remove their work shoes immediately upon entering the home. In fact, the average person’s shoes are exposed to many chemicals just walking across a parking lot after a rain because the run-off contains many of these chemicals.

It is also recommended that people working with chemicals should shower after work to help remove any chemicals on their skin, and all clothing exposed to the chemicals should be laundered separately from other clothing. Work clothes or uniforms should never be laundered with children’s clothing.

The EPA recommends that you establish an entry way system to help reduce the entrance of pollutants into the home. A hard entryway such as a concrete walk leading up to the house is a first step. A grate-like mat at the top step to the house can be used to scrape off shoes and help cut down on the tracking of contaminants into the house. An absorbent mat at the door entry will also trap soil and water below the shoe level.

Set up a shoe station near entrances where people can remove shoes worn outdoors and change into indoor shoes, slippers, or non-slip socks. This is especially wise in households with small children who crawl and play on the floor, or homes with pets who lick their paws while grooming. Heck, go barefoot. I highly recommend it.

For more information of the “Leave It at the Door” information series developed by our UGA Specialists, contact me at 229-436-7216. Remember, wipe those feet.

Suzanne Williams can be reached at (229) 436-7216 or suzanwms@uga.edu.