Friday, 15 August 2014

Healthy Hotels Program to Deliver Management of Mould Workshop at WA State Environmental Health Conference This Month

The Healthy Hotels Program operates the Healthy Hotels Certification and provides advice to consumers and accommodation providers on matters of indoor environmental quality.

Perth, Western Australia, August 15 2014, The sixty eighth WA State Environmental Health Conference will be held from the 25th until the 27th of August at Crown Perth by the Western Australian branch of not for profit organisation, Environmental Health Australia.

The landmark annual event consists of a series of workshops and presentations, providing environmental health officers from all industries with an opportunity to glean the latest updates to findings and best practise directly from leaders within the environmental health community.

Cedric Cheong of the Healthy Hotels Program will be presenting the management of mould workshop which is designed for accommodation operators along with real estate offices, tenant liaison officers and property portfolio managers.

The workshop will present key findings based on the impact of mould on health, property and overall risk to safety as it pertains to individuals in key positions of responsibility.

With winter well underway, the management of mould workshop is particularly timely and will explore key international standards and guidelines for mould management along with strategies for the communication of hazards to all stakeholders.

Other vital subjects incorporated in the workshop include the management of exposure and potential health effects in line with up to date department of health guidelines.

Mr Cheong will be joined by Jacqueline Campbell of IAQ Solutions and Kevin White of MDW Environmental Services.

The three and a half hour presentation will be held on Monday the 25th of August and precedes a host of contextual subjects to follow including communicating allergen related information, legionella in cooling towers, the Western Australian public’s perception of food poisoning and food handling practise and management of asbestos containing material, among many others.

On the third day of the conference, Wednesday the 27th of August, Mr Cheong will also be presenting a key note session on water damage and mould in buildings at 2.30PM on behalf of the Healthy Hotels Program.

Other organisations presenting subject matter include the Western Australian Department of Health, the Western Australian Department of Environmental Regulation, Edith Cowan University, the Western Australian Department of Environmental Regulation, Cancer Council, Curtin University and WorkSafe along with many more.

Registrations for the Management of Mould Workshop close on Monday the 18th of August. 

For more information, please contact Julianne Samandari, Executive Officer of Environmental Health Australia (Western Australia) on 08 6495 1111 or visit

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Healthy Hotels Program: Risk and Guest Demand Main Reasons for Abandonment of Chlorine Bleach

The Healthy Hotels Program urges accommodation providers to use caution regarding the use of chlorine bleach, as occupational risk and guest demand prompt an industry wide abandonment.

The Healthy Hotels Program operates the Healthy Hotels Certification and provides advice to consumers and accommodation providers on matters of indoor environmental quality.

Work related asthma (WRA) has become the most prevalent occupational lung disease in the developed world according to the Respiratory Division of the University of British Columbia, Department of Medicine.

Chlorine bleach or sodium hypochlorite was recently categorised as an asthma causing agent (asthmagen) by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, and incidences of WRA formed a substantial basis for the decision.  However, a range of factors have prompted a decisive shift away from these toxic compounds.

Libby Sharp, President of the South East Queensland Professional Housekeepers Association (SEQPHA) provided comment.

“Safety was the main reason we stopped using liquid chlorine bleach,” Ms Sharp said. “We had several cases where workers made compensation claims as a result of various injuries, including damage to their eyes resulting from the use of bleach.”

Denise Miller is a SEQPHA Committee Member and had previously implemented her own safety procedures for bleach use.  She said, “We had to remove bleach from the carts due to the dangers of spillage or injury.  If the use of bleach was necessary, a staff member would call down and a designated staff member with the appropriate personal protective equipment would apply the product and then return it to storage.”

In relation to cleaning methods for the overall guest rooms, Ms Sharp advised that at least sixty percent of SEQPHA members had switched to micro fibre methods, commenting, “Although there is a transition period to go through and investment has to be made, our members have found it to be more efficient overall and the results are actually better.”

Liz Lycette, the Founder of Housekeeping Advisory Firm, Lycette and Associates, recognises a shift in the industry as well as the marketplace.  She said, “When it comes to bathrooms, steam is faster than harsh chemicals and helps to avoid guest complaints.  For example, if a guest opens their door and the tell-tale smell of bleach is present, they will comment.”

Spokesman for the Healthy Hotels Program, Nicson White, believes that greater awareness, together with increased guest sensitivity to chemicals has driven the parallel change in consumer trends. “Demand for organic food is growing at twenty to thirty percent per year in Australia. This is a trend primarily driven by people’s desire to avoid pesticides and chemical residue,” said Mr White.

 “Multiple chemical sensitivity affects as many as twenty five percent of the developed population in some form. There is clearly a vested interest within a large cross section of guests due directly to their own individual health concerns.”

Ms Sharp also commented on guest demand, “We regularly get people calling in saying they are allergic to bleach or chemicals. We take a step further when that happens and our staff will clean the room with warm water and vinegar.”
At her property, Ms Miller advises that some guests call ahead due to having skin allergies, whilst others are very sensitive to scents and request that no air fresheners be used.

Environmental Scientist, Cedric Cheong of the Healthy Hotels Program, expressed his concern from a liability perspective, stating “In Australia, people such as Executive Housekeepers and Maintenance Managers need to know that anyone considered by Safe Work Australia to be a person conducting a business undertaking (PCBU) is legally responsible for any injuries their workers may sustain as a result of chlorine bleach exposure.”

Education is a primary issue according to Mr Cheong, “The most common feedback I receive is that bleach is the only thing people believe they can use to kill mould.  In fact, chlorine bleach does not kill mould, but only changes the colour of it.  Therefore people are unknowingly covering it up instead of fixing the problem, as well as exposing themselves to a known asthmagen.”

Dr Claire Bird, an Environment and Risk Advisor at the Healthy Hotels Program, suggested that monitoring hotel room conditions could help reduce the burden on cleaning.

“Understanding the triggers and what they mean in terms of how the building is designed, operated, maintained and managed can prevent the occurrence of certain hazards such as mould, and therefore the need to treat them in the first place,” said Dr Bird.

“A building management approach aimed at preventing guest exposure to harmful contaminants often provides a sensible alternative to fixing the damage with toxic chemicals.” 

Dr Bird advised that the combined threat of cleaning products, such as chlorine bleach and microbiological contaminants in both surface and airborne form, provides sufficient argument for controlling these factors at the source. For hoteliers, this not only reduces the risk of guests inhaling potential allergens, toxins and infectious agents, it is also likely to lower the direct maintenance costs in the form of reduced staff time and consumable usage.

Accommodation providers who have not yet reviewed their property’s usage of chlorine bleach are advised to contact the Healthy Hotels Program or their current risk assessment organisation to discuss safer alternatives.  

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Healthy Hotels Program: Household Bleach Found to be an Asthma Causing Agent in Humans

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA, APRIL 29, Household bleach has been found to be an asthma causing agent in humans by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics.

Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or simply “bleach” as it is commonly referred to, has been a widely used cleaning product in homes for over half a century. However, it has now been officially confirmed as an asthmagen, which is an agent known to cause asthma.

The Healthy Hotels Certification provides travel consumers with an assurance of a healthy stay across 4,000 guest rooms internationally.

In the United States, The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics first categorised bleach as an asthmagen in 2012, making reference to numerous medical studies and submissions, one of which showed data from four American states over thirteen years, which noted new-onset asthma to be associated with fifty- two percent of bleach exposure incidents.

“I am deeply concerned by the widespread use of cleaning products that is now confirmed to be a direct cause of respiratory disease,” says Cedric Cheong, an indoor environmental quality scientist at the Healthy Hotels Program. “When I give talks and seminars in the community, I always get one or two people who would say to me that they don’t consider a room to be clean unless they can smell the bleach! Mums and dads and those in the cleaning industry who are exposed on a daily basis are unaware of the risks associated with exposure to chlorine bleach.”

Consumers could be forgiven for this misconception. A cursory review of the National Asthma Council of Australia website showed asthma sufferers being specifically advised to clean with bleach.

In contrast, in the United States, persistent consumer pressure has resulted in the country’s largest retailers taking action to address chemical safety within their entire product offerings, covering everything from cosmetics to cleaning products. In the last six months, Target, Walmart and numerous other market leaders, have implemented new or heavily revised chemical safety policies, requiring suppliers to address hazardous chemicals in products they supply. Suppliers utilising unnecessarily hazardous active ingredients in their products have a time frame to adapt their products, or risk losing their preferred supplier relationships.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency stopped recommending the use of chlorine bleach in 2010, whilst the Occupational Health and Safety Administration have since retracted its recommendation for bleach usage as a mould cleaner.

In Australia, however, it is the accommodation sector leading the way. According to Nicson White, the spokesman for the Healthy Hotels Program, many hotels are now providing guests with the choice of a low-irritant room, whilst some are bypassing the use of dangerous cleaning products altogether.

“We are seeing a great deal of leadership in the industry today. More and more housekeeping departments are opting to swap their conventional products for modern low-toxicity alternatives, ahead of any legislative requirement to do so. They see the health of their staff and their guests as a priority.” 

Dr Peter Dingle, a researcher and toxicologist for the Healthy Hotels Program, advises guests to call ahead before they book their hotel accommodation and ask about the hotel’s policy on cleaning. “Do they have a low-toxicity policy in place, or is it obvious the issue hasn’t been addressed?”

On the subject of bleach in the home, Dr Dingle only has one piece of advice: “There are so many healthy choices to clean your home that don’t involve using bleach. If you have any in your home, throw it out and save yourself and your family from an easily avoided health risk.”

Friday, 7 March 2014

Changes to Asbestos Containing Materials Regulations for Accommodation Operators in Australia

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA, March 7, Important changes to federal and state regulation of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM)

Commonwealth asbestos legislation has now been adopted by several states and territories, extending on the original ban of the use of all asbestos containing materials (ACM) Australia wide on 31 December 2003.

The Healthy Hotels Program provides advice for property operators in the fields of environmental health, textile maintenance and nutrition. Healthy Hotels Certification is utilised by over 4,000 accommodation guest rooms and is available for products as well as maintenance service providers.

This legislation, which can be defined today as the *Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) (the Act)
And the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (Cth)  has been adopted by the states of Queensland, NSW, the ACT and the NT. The following codes of practise are approved under section 274 of the Act:
* Code of Practice: How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace; and
* Code of Practice: How to Safely Remove Asbestos.

Healthy Hotels Program Environmental Advisor Dr Claire Bird, recommends operators across all categories review their property’s position in view of the changes.
“The changes apply to all property operators who are currently managing or controlling a workplace constructed prior to 31 December 2013, within the states and territories which have adopted the federal policy.”

Work Health & Safety Regulations 2011 state that operator responsibilities include ensuring asbestos at the workplace is identified, the location of asbestos is clearly indicated, all found asbestos is recorded in a register and an asbestos management plan is implemented where asbestos has been identified or likely to be there at times. All asbestos samples taken must be analysed by a NATA Accredited laboratory and the asbestos register must be maintained with up to date information and must be readily accessible at the workplace.

According to the new legislation, the deadline for complying with the new asbestos register and management plan requirements was 1 January 2014.

Operators who believe they may be in breach of the requirements are encouraged to take action by speaking with an organisation specialising in environmental health.

For works conducted outside of the four adopting jurisdictions, state based legislation applies in addition to the Commonwealth legislation. In South Australia, the legislation is the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act (SA) 1986 along with the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 2010. For Victoria, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Vic) 2004 and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Vic) 2007 apply. Western Australia observes the Occupational Safety and Health Act (WA) 1984; and the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations (WA) 1996. And in Tasmania, the Workplace Health and Safety Act (Tas) 1995 and Workplace Health and Safety Regulations (Tas) 1998 apply.

Works conducted in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, are also subject to the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s (NOHSC) Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in the Workplace [NOHSC: 2018 (2005)].

Contact Healthy Hotels Program for further advice:
1300 646 551

Monday, 9 December 2013

New Sleep Hygiene Research Redefines Hotel Sleep Quality Factors

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA, December 9, New sleep research shows that temperature affects hotel guest sleep quality more than noise or light, whilst sleeping with a partner could reduce sleep quality by 50 per cent.

A recent study released by Central Queensland University Lecturer and Healthy Hotels Program advisory board member Darryl O’Brien, has combined local and international research to dispel numerous myths in relation to the primary factors which determine sleep quality.

Darryl O’Brien lectures in building surveying and built environment engineering at central Queensland University in Rockhampton. The Healthy Hotels Program operates the Healthy Hotels Certification and provides guidelines on indoor environment management to the tourism industry.

Sleep quality is not only a critical component of the guest experience, it is a major economic factor in Australia. According to a collaborative study produced by Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Access Economics in Canberra and the Department of Thoracic Medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, sleep disorders cost Australia $7.49bn every year. This includes categories of direct health costs, work related injuries and lost productivity. 

It has long been assumed that noise above a certain level or excessive light, are the main factors for sleep disturbance, however according to the latest research, this is not necessarily true.

“In our most recent analysis, we have found that microclimatic factors such as the individual’s thermal comfort (temperature) are the main precursors to the potential for sleep disturbance.” Said Mr O’brien.

The research explains that after falling asleep, body temperature decreases and core temperature stabilisation must occur to ensure slow wave sleep (the deepest stage of the sleep cycles) can occur as each sleep cycle takes place. In the latest research, people exposed to higher temperatures or temperature increases were most likely to experience reduced sleep quality with 25% of people from one study reporting direct disturbance of sleep due to high indoor temperature. 

In order to maintain the optimum sleep and remain the most resistant to disturbance from noise or light, the bed climate (temperature in the bed) should be between 32-34 degrees, which is comparable to a room temperature of between 15-22 degrees.

Another often misunderstood component in sleep quality and overall health is light. The latest research has confirmed that exposure to daylight or excessive artificial night light may trigger an involuntary reduction in melatonin secretions (the hormone which helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles) which can cause sleeplessness and premature awakening, thus affirming that the darker the environment for sleep the better. This discovery also supports the theory that avoiding artificial light from televisions and devices such as tablets and mobile phones an hour before bed is supportive of better sleep. Conversely, morning sunlight has been found to increase brain serotonin levels (the hormone which assists in mood regulation) elevating mood, vitality and core body temperature. 

The research revealed air quality as being a factor in sleep quality. Separate to guests opening guestroom windows where possible to allow fresh air exchange, it is largely within the control of the property operator to ensure HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) systems are providing sufficient air exchange.
In other research conducted by the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, one study showed that couples who shared a bed experienced 50 per cent more sleep disturbances than couples who slept separately. Dr Stanley who oversaw the research advises couples to consider sleeping separately adding that prior to the industrial revolution, this was common practise among married partners.

Contrary to popular belief that daytime naps can interfere with sleep, the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia confirms that whilst naps should be no longer than 30 minutes and ideally no later than mid afternoon, a 15-30 minute nap has been proven to improve concentration, mood and energy levels for several hours afterwards and is therefore highly recommended, particularly in place of a common stimulant such as caffeine or an ‘energy’ drink.

Advice from the Healthy Hotels Program for guests

Call ahead before booking to ascertain if the property undertakes sanitising of the guestroom bed and carpet and to ascertain when the last time the air conditioning system was cleaned

Request a room with windows that open if possible and open the windows during the day

At night, set the thermostat to a cool temperature 22 degrees or under – subject to comfort level

Lower the light in the room when preparing for bed and aim to eliminate all light from the room when retiring

Turn off and unplug all electronic devices 

Avoid using devices or viewing any size screen at least 30 minutes before bed

Avoid drinking and eating immediately before bed

If guests are hungry before bed, a high protein snack which contains a natural fatty acid will assist in a deep sleep and the production of human growth hormone which helps the body metabolise fat and repair tissue. Avocados are good source, most nuts are also suitable including almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts and pecans

Exercise in the morning instead of afternoon if possible and avoid night time exercise

Minimise alcohol consumption and avoid caffeine in particular after 2PM

Partners should consider sleeping in a separate beds if a good sleep is vital. Evidence suggests couple suffer up to 50% more incidence of sleep disturbance when sharing a bed

Once awake, guests should be mindful of the benefits of exposure to natural sunlight in the morning

Advice for property operators:

Conduct guest education upon check in with a simple list of hints. The guest's overall sleep experience is something education can assist greatly with

Ensure HVAC systems are regularly tested for efficiency and hygiene

Ensure curtains are light proof

Take measures to manage sound, testing can be provided

Have beds, carpets and pillows sanitised regularly to support air quality

Advertise any related initiative. Hygiene and cleanliness standards have been proven to play a significant role in the accommodation selection process

Friday, 15 November 2013

Australian Tourism Experiences Unprecedented Rise in Demand for Healthy Accommodation

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA, November 15, A Global Wellness Tourism Economy report has been officially released by SRI International, showing a never before seen rate of growth in the wellness sector, which in Australia is the result of a convergence of several new and existing travel trends.

The Healthy Hotels Certification was established in 2005 in response to travel consumers’ demand for healthy accommodation. Comprised of health researchers and marketplace education experts in the fields of environmental health, textile maintenance, nutrition and sleep hygiene, the program provides certification for products, services and over 4,000 accommodation guest rooms.

Last week in California, a Global Wellness Tourism Economy report, commissioned by the Global Spa and Wellness Summit, stated that wellness tourism as a category has grown to be valued at $US438.6 billion  ($462b) globally and is predicted to reach $715.6b by 2017.

Findings in the latest research indicated that those seeking to maintain wellness while travelling represent 87 per cent of wellness trips whilst those travelling primarily for wellness alone represent only 13 per cent. Primary elements of wellness include environmental health such as air quality, followed by diet and exercise considerations.

Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy, agrees that wellness is core to the way many people travel today. "Wellness is a growing part of people's everyday lives and is becoming a key driver for people's holiday choices."

The domestic wellness guest has been found to spend on average 130 per cent more than a regular guest, making becoming “wellness relevant” a priority for accommodation operators more than ever before.

Daniel Gschwind, Chief Executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, believes healthy travel will help Queensland in its goal to double visitor expenditure by 2020.
“To remain competitive as a destination we need to deliver what our consumers expect and we have to do it well.” Gschwind says. “We are fortunate to have a strong destination brand to build on and with a professional and consistent approach to delivering quality experiences in health and well being, we will be able to generate considerable growth in this expanding market.”

Australia’s largest tourism export market, New Zealand, exhibits a near identical priority on healthy travel to Australia. China is Australia’s second largest and fastest growing tourism export market and Chinese tourists are the second largest consumer of wellness tourism in Asia. More than half of the projected growth in wellness tourism is predicted to take place in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East/North Africa the latest report reveals.

Ben Dargie, Hotel Manager of 4.5 STAR Ramada Hotel & Suites in Ballina, wants guests to know their health is being taken seriously. “We want our guests to have peace of mind during their stay and return home feeling rejuvenated.” The property is a part of the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts group.

Due to a lack of independent certification overseas, several operators are taking their own measures to cater to the wellness boom. Intercontinental Hotels Group released the wellness dedicated EVEN Hotels concept in 2012 and plans to build 100 properties in the next five years, focussing steadfastly on diet and nutrition in the guest room offering. Trump Hotel Collection has introduced the Trump Wellness Program providing work out equipment and healthy diet options for guests. Westin Hotels and Resorts are providing guests with running shoes and the option of a concierge guided running tour, whilst Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have introduced Fairmont Fit, where workout shoes, equipment, mats and an MP3 player are delivered to guest rooms. 

Healthy Hotels Program spokesman, Nicson White says, “Most accommodation providers are still developing their understanding of the difference between core wellness needs such as a contaminant free guest room and non-core offerings such as fitness equipment and exercise routines.”

Textiles such as mattresses and carpets that are not correctly maintained have been found to accumulate unsafe levels of fungal and bacterial growth, as well as volatile organic compounds and increased dust mite populations. “Our research confirms it is these contributors which give the guest room environment the greater potential for impact on the occupant’s health, than their activity or diet choices alone” said Mr White.

Research in Australia suggests that third party certification of health and hygiene is the most likely to be trusted by travel consumers. Tourism Accommodation Australia Managing Director, Rodger Powell has welcomed Healthy Hotels Certification saying, “Tourism based around health and wellness has played a major role in growing domestic and international business for Australian hotels. It is important for the industry that travellers have confidence in the products being offered. One of the best ways to achieve this is through accreditation by a respected and professional specialist wellness organisation.”

Friday, 4 October 2013

Multiple New Health Threats Identified in Hotel Rooms, Not The Germs Guests are Already Preoccupied With

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA, October 4, Today’s hotel guests have become obsessed with the ‘germ factor’.  Visible cleanliness has taken out spot number one in the booking decision process even beating value for money. But are health hazards within the hotel room accurately understood by those staying in them and those providing them?  

The Healthy Hotels Program is an industry and consumer education body and operates The Healthy Hotels Certification throughout the Asia-Pacific. Healthy Hotels Certification acknowledges best practise in guest room health and is available to accommodation operators across all categories.

Whilst it is 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, according to Healthy Hotels Program spokesman Nicson White. “It is unrealistic for any guest room not to show evidence of human habitation, however the presence of VOC’s such as certain mould 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.” White affirms.

However they are referred to, health threats, germs, diseases, are easiest to consider in order of how they reach the body. They are categorised by things people touch, the air they breathe and auxiliary factors. Touch transmission remains the most common means of infection, with many viruses and bacteria being transmitted this way from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to the common cold. In the guest room, everything from door handles and swipe keys to light switches and furniture presents a potential for transmission. 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, whilst furniture typically is not.

Equally one of the greatest potential threats to health in the guest room is the air we breathe, according to Healthy Hotels Program Toxicologist, Dr Peter Dingle. “Human lungs are designed for exchange of gases and are comprised of a cellular surface area equivalent to the size of a tennis court. Oxygen passes over the membranes and directly into the bloodstream, as often do many contaminants with it. 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 mould spores, fine dust, pollen and volatile organic compounds or VOC’s. Dr Claire Bird of the Healthy Hotels Program says, “ Some of the most dangerous air borne pollutants which are also the easiest to avoid, are air fresheners, pesticides and many conventional cleaning products.” Healthy Hotels Program research reveals that the most common VOC sources in the guest room are cleaning chemical residue and the by product of a process called ‘off-gassing’. Typical of newer building materials such as fresh carpets or furniture, gases from the glues, sealants and colouring agents can leech into the air for a period of time, often being mistaken for that fresh new carpet smell. Overall, any substance which is not considered toxic to the touch, must be considered completely differently if inhaled. Only 30% of contaminants inhaled are ever exhaled, the remainder is broken down by the body, usually within the liver.

Auxiliary factors which have a bearing on health and the experience in the guest room include sleep hygiene (the habits surrounding sleep), nutrition and electromagnetic fields (emf’s) which are often higher due to the presence of more electrical items per square metre than in a typical home. Wireless internet, mobile phones, microwaves and proximity to power outlets are just a few of the exposure points in the hotel room where we are likely to encounter emf’s. Whilst research in many areas remains divided and is almost always controversial, the evidence points to one common theme when considering emf’s and that is, the less the human body is exposed to, the better. Nutrition and hydration whilst in the guest room are areas where common sense has the opportunity to prevail, however the subject of sleep hygiene is still largely under publicised. Darryl O’Brien, an advisor to the Healthy Hotels Program, Lectures at Central Queensland University in surveying and the built environment. Mr O’Brien tells us, “Exposure to bright light such as direct room lighting and device screens after sundown has been found to impact the level of melatonin released within the body. This in turn can result in difficulty getting to sleep and a reduced sleep quality.”

There is 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 mould and dust mites. The average hotel bed will be home to more than 1370 people over a five year period. We shed up to 3.6kg 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% dust mites and their excrement. In addition, carpets and beds which are not regularly or correctly sanitised have been found to contain high concentrations of mould 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, irrespective of class or rating.

Whilst the desk and television remote are commonly known to contain higher bacteria counts, the items which are most likely to harbour more harmful VOC’s, particularly where they can be inhaled, are the mattress and pillows. The warm, dark and moist climate is ideal for not only allergens such as dust mites, but also mould. Mould along with mould spores, is more prolific than what is commonly understood. It is almost always present and by comparison is rarely visible. Dr Dingle tells us that certain species of mould represent arguably the greatest and most common threat to respiratory health in any guest room. Although the number is improving, comparatively few accommodation operators sanitise their beds and carpets correctly if at all, making these areas a haven for basic allergens and bacteria, through to potentially dangerous VOC’s.

For the most part, the environment is the responsibility of the operator to manage on behalf of the guest. Creating a healthy environment doesn’t need to involve expensive measures, simply educated maintenance practise. For guests, there are several things which can affirm confidence before checking in, including doing the following before booking:

-          Ask about sanitising practise before booking. Are the beds, pillows and carpets sanitised and if so, is it with a low moisture process or does it involve steam which is counter-productive? 

-          Ask about cleaning products. Does the housekeeping department 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

-          Guests can take their own pillow, have it either professionally sanitised or at the very least, vacuum it and leave it in direct sunlight for an hour

-          Ask if there is an independent health certification in place which may incorporate the above items such as Healthy Hotels Certification

During the stay:

-          Open the windows if possible. There is no substitute for fresh air when it comes to air quality

-          Wash hands regularly and avoid touching the nose, eyes or mouth unnecessarily

-          Wipe down items and switches with a disinfecting wipe

-          Guests can take their own drinking water, or stay length depending, boil the water and let it stand while out before drinking

-          Turn off and unplug unnecessary devices, particularly before bed 

-          Stay hydrated and be mindful to consume foods (preferably raw) considered to be antioxidants (most berries, prunes, apples, plums, tomatoes, green tea)
Or if indulging, red wine, dark chocolate

-          Avoid bright lights and device screens an hour before bed

For accommodation operators, it is recommended that that a regular sanitising program be implemented and advice sought from an indoor environment specialist to assist in the monitoring and maintaining of guest rooms. Often the healthiest rooms are also the most efficient, as exemplified by correctly maintained HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) systems.

In the next five years, the Healthy Hotels Program endeavours to make best practise in guest room health maintenance, the new standard practise throughout the international tourism industry. The Program provides operators with a commercially proven point of difference, giving them not only a moral but an economic reason to become Healthy Hotels Certified. Consumers today enjoy peace of mind when staying at Certified Healthy Hotels in more than 100 properties throughout the Asia Pacific. 

For further information, please contact the Healthy Hotels Program.

1300 646 551