Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hotel rooms can make you sick

A hotel room may look clean, but the reality is the stuff of nightmares.

The Healthy Hotels Program, which provides hotels in Australia and New Zealand with certification of their health and hygiene standards, has compiled some facts to find out just how much hotels can affect health.

In the guest room, door handles, swipe keys, carpet, glasses, light switches, remotes, key board, furniture, bedding, curtains, taps and fittings, the toilet, shower, ice bucket, refrigerator, chair, bed and pillows each present a potential for transmission.
Poor indoor air quality in hotel rooms
can impact visitors' health.

The desk in a hotel room will be home to 400 times more bacteria than the toilet, the reason being that most toilets are disinfected, while furniture typically is not.

Equally one of the greatest potential threats to health in the guest room is the air we breathe.

The resting adult will inhale between 10,000 to 20,000 litres of air per day including sleeping time, where the face and mouth are pressed directly onto the pillow.

Air can be home to any number of micro-contaminants, including mold spores, fine dust, pollen and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of the most dangerous airborne pollutants, which are also the easiest to avoid, are air fresheners, pesticides and many conventional cleaning products.

The most common VOC sources in the guest room are cleaning chemical residue and the byproduct of a process called ‘off-gassing’. Typical of newer building materials such as fresh carpets or furniture, gases from the glues, sealants and coloring agents can leech into the air for a period of time, often being mistaken for that fresh new carpet smell.

Any substance which is not considered toxic to the touch must be considered completely differently if inhaled. Only 30 per cent of contaminants inhaled are ever exhaled, the remainder are broken down by the body, usually within the liver.

There’s no avoiding the fact that any indoor environment which is home to human activity will ultimately be contaminated with the presence of human proteins, body fluids, bacteria and most likely the presence of mold and dust mites.

The average hotel bed will be home to more than 1370 people over a five-year period. We shed up to 3.6 kilograms of skin each year and an average bed can contain anywhere from 100,000 to 2,000,000 dust mites.

The Ohio State University entomology department says the weight of a two-year-old pillow can be comprised of up to 10 per cent dust mites and their excrement.

In addition, carpets and beds which are not regularly or correctly sanitized have been found to contain high concentrations of mold spores and bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli).

To add to the equation, when examined with black light most hotel room bed heads or head walls have been found to show evidence of human proteins.

A smell indicates poor indoor air quality -
but some dangers aren't easy to identify.
While it’s the ‘germ statistics’ that form the common rhetoric and always have, guests and hoteliers alike deserve to know the difference between the ‘gross factor’ and the elements which are more likely to cause potentially serious health concerns.

It’s unrealistic for any guest room not to show evidence of human habitation, however the presence of VOCs such as certain mold spores and chemical compounds within the air and furnishings should be taken far more seriously due to the demonstrated health implications they can represent from both short and long term exposure.

Certain species of mold represent arguably the greatest and most common threat to respiratory health in any guest room. Although the number is improving, comparatively few accommodation operators sanitize their beds and carpets correctly if at all, making these areas a haven for basic allergens and bacteria, through to potentially dangerous VOCs.

How to minimize risks in hotel rooms


If you’re a guest, there are several things you can do to have confidence before your stay:

  • Ask about sanitizing practice before booking. Are the beds, pillows and carpets sanitized and if so, is it with a low moisture process or with steam which is counter-productive?
  • Ask if housekeeping typically use bleach-based products or are there other safer alternatives in place such as vinegar or cloth cleaning?
  • Ask if the property has their air quality measured regularly.
  • Take your own pillow, have it either professionally sanitized or at the very least, vacuum it and leave it in direct sunlight for an hour.
  • Ask if there’s an independent health certification in place.

During your stay:
  • Open the windows if possible — fresh air is best.
  • Wash hands regularly and avoid touching the nose, eyes or mouth unnecessarily.
  • Wipe down items and switches with a disinfecting wipe.
  • Take your own drinking water or boil the water and let it stand for a while.
  • Turn off and unplug unnecessary devices, particularly before bed.
  • Stay hydrated and be mindful to consume foods (preferably raw) with antioxidants such as most berries, prunes, apples and green tea.
  • Avoid bright lights and device screens an hour before bed
Editor's note: This article has been edited for length. 

Worried about air quality in your travel establishment? Electrocorp can help improve the indoor air quality in hotel rooms, conference rooms, reception halls, dining rooms and other areas with long-lasting air cleaners for hotels and the hospitality industry. For travelers, there are some smaller air purifiers available. Contact Electrocorp for more information.

1 comment:

  1. I am really glad that I have found this post and I thank you for letting us know about this information….This is a big help for sure!!Thanks!
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    ReplyDelete