Whether on a family vacation or a business trip, everyone needs a place to rest their head when traveling. In the United States, people spend over $150 billion each year at over 50,000 properties that provide lodging with close to 5 million guest rooms.
As these figures show, the industry is huge and encompasses a wide range of choices for consumers from luxury resorts to roadside economy motels. No matter the budget or location, the indoor environmental quality of the facility is important for the health and wellbeing of both guests and employees.
As is the case with all buildings, hotels and motels can face a myriad of potential indoor environmental quality challenges. Some of the more common items include the following:
• Mold -- Water leaks, flooding and elevated humidity levels are a few of the reasons why mold could begin to grow and cause health concerns.
• VOCs -- Cleaning products, pesticides, building materials and furnishing are a few examples of materials that could cause high levels of VOCs in the air.
• Allergens -- Mold, bacteria, pet dander, insects, rodents, dust mites and latex are all common allergens that could cause allergic reactions in people.
• Legionella -- Cooling towers in commercial buildings have been known to harbor Legionella bacteria, the cause of Legionnaires' disease. Other sources include plumbing systems, fountains, hot tubs and decorative pools.
• Pesticides & Cleaning Chemicals -- These materials can release chemicals into the air and leave behind potentially dangerous residues.
• Environmental Tobacco Smoke -- Although smoking is now regulated in many places and some hotels ban or limit smoking to specific rooms, secondhand smoke is a known carcinogen and can leave irritating odors.
• Pools -- In recent years, recreational water illness (RWI) outbreaks of acute gastrointestinal illness have been increasing. Fecal matter in pools can harbor such pathogens as E. coli and other microbes.
• Gyms -- Hotels with gyms may provide an environment conducive for the spread of community acquired infections as sweaty bodies come into direct contact with shared equipment, mats and towels.
• Polluted Exterior Air - Building air intakes or open hotel room windows near busy highways, dumpsters and loading areas can cause air quality issues indoors.
• Radon -- Many parts of the country suffer from high radon levels. Although a guest staying for a night or two on the first few floors of a hotel may have few concerns, employees who spend year after year working at the property could be at risk.
• Asbestos & Lead -- Some older properties still contain these materials which can become a hazard as they age or are disturbed.
• Bed bugs -- In recent years, bed bugs have been found even in the fanciest hotels. These blood sucking insects can cause itching, loss of sleep and could even hitch a ride back to a guest's home.