Shoes Off

Shoes Off

Rule number one in keeping a lead-safe home is: “Please take your shoes off outside and leave them there—no exceptions!”

We have a lovely wooden bench on the porch that is long enough for everyone to sit while taking off their shoes. Many cultures have practiced this custom for centuries.  From Japan to Austria it’s the custom to take your shoes off at the door. Some families even keep a basket of slippers inside the door for guests. It’s a nice custom—it’s civilized and distinguishes a boundary between the chaos of the outside world and the haven of the home.

Taking your shoes off outside is also the best way to prevent tracking dirt laden with environmental toxins into your home.

While a grandparent who grew up on a farm might say “a little dirt is good for you – don’t worry about it!”, these days you really have to think twice about tracking the incredibly array of substances that cling to the soles of our shoes into our homes – especially if you live in a densely populated urban area. It is initially hard to understand that it only takes a microscopic amount of lead dust to poison a child—consider that just two “sugar packets”’ worth of lead dust would be enough to contaminate an entire football field to a level that is hazardous to children!

In Portland, Oregon there is remodeling everywhere; from homes being repainted to whole buildings being torn down, entire neighborhoods are being redone. Many don’t realize that much of this renovation activity is not regulated and can [legally] put clouds of toxic dust into the air.  Just watch any footage of the demolition of a building—you can see the expanding clouds of dust enveloping everything in the neighborhood. It doesn’t take much to imagine how this impacts the levels of lead and other toxic substances in the areas where children spend most of their time.

While these realizations can produce an initial impulse to panic – to give in to the thought that the toxins in our environment are inescapable and that there is “nothing you can do about it,” panic doesn’t reduce risk—actions do.

What you can do is be responsible for keeping environmental toxins like lead out of your child’s environment. You can make sure their home, school and playgrounds are and remain lead free. If you monitor those areas it will make a difference.

So implement a “shoes off” policy (as a great start) and here’s some other advice:

  1. Don’t clean or dust “dry”– it spreads lead around! Use a wet-wipe method instead. We use disposable wipes because they do not spread the lead microdust around.  They are great for windows’ sills & troughs, stairs, and cleaning up any dust that accumulates in the house.  (Also, consider having a carpet-free home!)
  2. Test your local playground equipment for lead. If you need a test kit, contact my foundation.
  3. Notice if there is any peeling paint anywhere in your child’s school or daycare – take a careful look at doors, windows and baseboards. Find out if the school has been tested, and if not – contact me and I will help you make sure your school gets tested and is safe for children!
  4. If you work in the construction industry, create a way to change your clothes (and ideally shower) before coming into the home. Every day children are poisoned by toxins a parent brings home on their work clothes—and that’s 100% preventable.
  5. This may sound trivial, but avoid the temptation to stand nearby with your kids to watch a building demolition—or remodeling/construction of any kind. Buildings being torn down are usually older and have lead paint. Soil around these buildings is often contaminated with lead from decades-long deposits of lead-laden auto exhaust. Especially while your children are very small, watch those activities from a distance  – or better yet – watch the videos on YouTube!
  6. If you want more detailed information about soil contamination and its potential to impact children, or studies about how lead dust impacts the health and well being of children, Google the work of (research scientists) Howard Mielke and Herbert Needleman and of (pediatric physician) Dr. Bruce Lanphear.


Tamara Rubin

Winner of the Inaugural National Healthy Homes Hero award presented in June 2011 by a consortium of Federal agencies (including the EPA, CDC, HUD, USDA and U.S. Department of Energy), Tamara Rubin has been a childhood lead poisoning prevention advocate since her children were poisoned in 2005.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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