A friend of mine sent me an article (from the AP, which has since pulled the article) claiming that walking around in the house with shoes on will expose everyone to dangerous levels of lead, especially if the house was made before lead paint was banned. The EPA makes similar claims, among them:

Wipe soil off shoes before entering house

Also, the University of Minnesota claims that there's lots of lead in the air, and so forth, with this graphic: UNM Graphic

However, there's also this trend that running (and walking) barefoot is good for you, which seems like it would be exposing me to all this lead that's around us, including:

  1. This defunct blog
  2. This not defunct blog
  3. The Primal Foot Alliance

Can I run/walk around without shoes on without fear of lead contamination? What about wearing shoes from outside and then not taking them off when inside-- will I also be bringing lead around?

I'm skeptical that I need to worry about lead in the air or soil if I have no lead paint on or near the property, but maybe I'm not paranoid enough.

  • 2
    I don't think there that much lead in water now that most households have switched to copper and pvc plumbing. lead based paint has been banned outright in domestic use. lead in soil would only be in industrial areas where they actually use lead (or landfills), gasoline has been unleaded for ages. Feb 8, 2012 at 3:32
  • 3
    anything you'd bring in on your shoes you could also bring in barefoot :) That said, the risks are massively overstated. There's just not enough lead dust around in an average environment to cause problems, and where there is you'd need respirators to prevent breathing it in.
    – jwenting
    Feb 8, 2012 at 6:12
  • Plus, I see many more (immediat) dangers in running barefoot on the street (cutting your feet for once).
    – nico
    Feb 8, 2012 at 8:07
  • I might worry if worked in a lead smelter or battery factory, but not otherwise.
    – matt_black
    Feb 8, 2012 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


Lead in paint was banned from household paint from 1978 (16 Code of Federal Regulations 1303) in the US (other years for other countries).

For lead in plumbing - California enacted laws in January 2009 that increase public protection from exposure to lead in drinking water. The laws reduce the amount of lead allowed in plumbing components intended to convey or dispense water for human consumption.

Source: http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/PollutionPrevention/LeadInPlumbing.cfm

However, EPA writes the following regarding lead in drinking water:

Lead is rarely found in source water, but enters tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. However, new homes are also at risk: even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to 8 percent lead. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water.

Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/index.cfm

Washing floors with water would therefor increase the chances of finding lead on the floor material despite it use lead free paint (if painted) and new plumbing system (that still can contain up to 8% lead).

Interesting too: The risk of lead poisoning in houses built before 1978 is large enough for EPA to require the following:

In January 2011 the US Environmental Protection Agency required that all renovators working in homes built before 1978 and containing more than six square-feet of lead paint be RRP-certified.

Source: http://epaleadtraining.com/rrp-in-a-nutshell/

So in conclusion, based on probability, the risk of lead poisoning (running barefoot) is very low in houses of newer date ( >1986) (USA) but existing.

An absolute conclusion is impossible without actually physically measuring the materials and environment for the house in question.

To reduce the risk further, EPA provides the following tip:

HEALTH TIP: To help block the storage of lead in your child’s body, serve your family meals that are low in fat and high in calcium and iron, including dairy products and green vegetables.

Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/leadfactsheet.cfm

  • Your first quote says "especially in hot water." Why is that? Is it because the hotter the water, the more interaction it has with the surrounding molecules and therefore a higher probability for lead containing molecules to be included in the flow?
    – ChrisR
    Jan 10, 2013 at 13:09
  • 1
    @ChrisR Something like that. It's like washing cloths with cold versus hot water, the latter is more efficient. Same principle.
    – epistemex
    Jan 10, 2013 at 14:02

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