New Yorkers May Want to Take Shoes Off Before Going Inside

Researchers say there's a whole lot of fecal bacteria on the Upper East Side's sidewalks
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2023 9:30 AM CST
New Yorkers May Want to Take Shoes Off Before Going Inside
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/fabienne harris)

If you're a resident of New York City and already annoyed by the dog poop you spot on the sidewalks, you're not going to happy about the poop you're not seeing. It's definitely there, though, especially on the Upper East Side, according to Marymount Manhattan College scientists, who found abundant fecal bacteria on the city's pavement, reports the Guardian. Researchers who worked on the study published late last month in the Indoor and Built Environment journal headed out to measure how much enterococci bacteria—i.e., "fecal indicator bacteria," per Gothamist—could be found on the sidewalks in the neighborhood around the school, as well as on carpeted and noncarpeted floors around campus.

The scientists headed out to gather water from sidewalk puddles using pipettes, handheld devices that draw in liquid, making sure to do so only from areas that didn't seem obviously contaminated. They also used tape to pick up samples from floors on campus. What they found was an average of 31,000 fecal bacteria cells per 100 milliliters of water. For context, study co-author Alessandra Leri notes to CBS News that "the EPA has a benchmark that cities use to close beaches, and that benchmark is 110 cells for 100 milliliters of water." Gothamist notes the presence of enterococci serves as a "proxy measure" for other microbes like E. coli as well.

The researchers also found a high concentration of fecal bacteria on the soles of volunteers' shoes, as well as on carpeting in well-tread areas—leading to their recommendation that people remove their footwear before going inside. "Taking your shoes off is a no-brainer," Leri says. "Shoe soles are disgusting." The Guardian notes that the study comes amid a spike in dog ownership in the city that coincided with the pandemic, which has led to "an inevitable increase in fecal production." People who don't scoop up after their dogs face a $250 fine, and city officials last year vowed to crack down on violators, but city stats show that thousands of complaints are still pouring in. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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