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Shoe-fitting fluoroscope

Shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were X-ray machines installed in shoe stores from the early 20th century up until about 1960 in the United States by which time they had been prohibited, and into the mid-1970s in the United Kingdom. In the UK, they were known as Pedoscopes, after the company based in St. Albans which manufactured them. Fluoroscopes were also used in shoe stores in continental Europe, as e.g. in Switzerland.

A fluoroscopes was an about 4 ft high metal construction in the shape of an upside-down teacup, with a couple of steps for children to ascend. The child would then put the feet in the opening provided and while remaining in a standing position, look through a viewing porthole at the top of the fluoroscope down at the X-ray view of the feet and shoes. Two further viewing portholes on either side enabled the parent and a shoe shop sales assistant to observe the child's toes being wiggled to show how much room for the toes there was inside the shoe. One was clearly able to see the outline of the shoe including the stitching around the edges, as well as the bones of the feet. The exposure time would - at a retrospective guess - have been around 15 seconds.

The gimmick changed from decade to decade to better suit the financial market at the time, but the most famous sales pitch was that the fluoroscope allowed salesmen to better fit shoes and it was fun for kids to go to the shoe store. During the depression the most popular sales pitch was that the fluoroscope allowed the best possible fit which made for longer lasting shoes, which meant you didn't have to buy as many pairs for yourself, or your children.

The shoe-fitting fluoroscope was nothing more than a fancy way to attract potential customers. One could get the same fit by a simple measurement.

Contrary to the health pitch served up by the shoe stores, an article about these devices in the "Engineering Disasters" series, shown on the History Channel, stated that the level of exposure from typical machines ranged from 20 to 75 rems (or 200 to 750 mSv) per minute. That is to be compared with the current maximum allowed occupational exposure to workers in nuclear power stations in the USA of 5 rems (50 mSv) per year and 20 mSv (2 rems) per year for classified radiation workers in the UK.

In 1949, the danger of the flouroscope was revealed and the machines were quietly phased out during the 1950s. An unknown number of people who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation may have suffered radiation sickness, deformities and/or cancer as a result.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Shoe-fitting_fluoroscope". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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