Shine On

Taking your shoes off is good for your health

Four new studies report that pavement — specifically coal tar-based asphalt sealants — is packed with cancer-causing toxic chemicals (Credit: Thinkstock)I live in slippers. It's a little embarrassing to realize that I'm lacking in the "appropriate adult footwear" category, but such is a hazard of working at home.

Turns out, my "no shoes in the house" lifestyle is actually good for me.

Four new studies report that pavement — specifically coal tar-based asphalt sealants — is packed with cancer-causing toxic chemicals, and we're putting our families at risk when we track it inside.

Coal tar is a byproduct of the steelmaking industry. It meets all the characteristics of a "hazardous waste" classification, but because it can be recycled to coat asphalt, steel mills aren't forced to pay for landfill or waste-incineration.

The new research found that kids who live near driveways and parking lots coated with such coal tar are subjected to higher doses of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) — "a group of over 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat" — through house dust and backyard play than those who don't.

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Most alarming, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) determined that "some PAHs may reasonably be expected to be carcinogens."

Many city governments are working to outlaw these sealants.

If the threat of bringing hazardous waste inside isn't enough to make you pause to untie those laces, also keep this in mind: you're also likely traipsing in with fecal matter — thanks to public-restroom floors or animal poop — clinging to your soles.

Experts "argue that dirt and grime, including E. coli and all kinds of harmful bacteria and microbes, are tracked into homes on the back of shoes," Vitamin G's Sarah Jio writes.

Your boots were made for walking — on really gross things. Just leave that waste at the door.

Etiquette expert Jodi R. R. Smith suggests providing guests with slippers if you choose to implement a no-shoe rule at dinner parties.

"That way you don't embarrass your guests should they have a hole in their sock or something unusual going on with their feet," Smith says.

Do you wear shoes inside?

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