You arrive at your hotel after a long flight, pleased to learn your room is ready. You head to the room and collapse, exhausted, on the bed, only to sense a strong antiseptic smell. You hope the scent goes away soon, but you wonder: How safe for your health are the products used to clean your guestroom and bathroom?
Hotel housekeepers have 30 minutes or less to clean and disinfect a guestroom and bathroom, and they employ all sorts of products to do the job. While high levels of bacteria are found on the bathroom sinks and floor, the dirtiest locations are often the light switches and TV remote control, containing colony-forming bacteria. Light switches have the highest levels of fecal matter. It is recommended you clean these areas with hand sanitizer wipes or bring a large zip-lock bag to encase the TV remote control in case these areas were not cleaned. To complicate matters, the cleaning products used can cause health problems; in late June the FDA announced it will investigate whether sanitizers are harmful to pregnant women and children.
All sorts of workers — janitors, hotel housekeepers and maintenance staff, office workers and hospital employees — use cleaning products every day to clean, disinfect and control dust and mold on surfaces. Some people who use these cleansers or work in areas where cleansers are used develop breathing problems. Many times these products are too strong or mixed incorrectly, and the people mixing them suffer respiratory conditions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports indoor air pollution is one of the nation’s most pressing health issues. Twenty toxic compounds have been linked to cancer and birth defects. Used in the confines of a hotel room, some of these carcinogens can have a stronger presence and increase your risk.
The chemicals in cleaning products used in many hotels can make you sick during routine exposure and, for travelers on a long stay, can be life-threatening. Exposure to the carcinogens in cleaning products can increase cancer risk, while endocrine disruptors found in many pesticides, detergents and disinfectants can confuse body hormones and cause fertility problems and even miscarriages.
Cleaning products can cause asthma or make existing asthma worse for hotel workers. If this can affect them, it can also affect guests, especially if the room and bathroom are not properly ventilated during and after cleaning. Watch for warning signs of asthma: wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. If you experience these symptoms while in your hotel room or bathroom, call 911 in the United States; if in another country, call the hotel concierge and request to be transported to the nearest hospital, since these breathing problems are not normal. Later, demand to be moved to another hotel room immediately. You can wait in the lobby until the room is ready if you are breathing normally.
Recent research shows exposure to cleaning products or air fresheners containing a volatile organic compound called 1,4-dichlorobenzene (1,4 DCB) can reduce lung function by 4 percent. Another study finds the use of spray household cleaners such as window and furniture cleaners, air fresheners and bathroom cleaners increases the risk of developing asthma by nearly 50 percent. A University of Washington study reports the fumes from air fresheners and fragrances contain hazardous toxins, none of which are listed on product labels since the federal government does not require companies to disclose the ingredients in these products.
Cleaning products should always be used in well-ventilated areas to avoid inhaling the fumes. Staff should wear masks, goggles and gloves while cleaning. If you are cleaning at home, wear the same protective equipment. Whenever possible, clean windows with them open. Ask for unscented cleaners and laundry detergents to be used whenever possible. Ironically, a chemical marketed to reduce allergens when you sprinkle it on your carpets acts as a significant irritant to people with asthma. Hotel owners should be aware of recent advances in safe cleaning practices and the availability of modern cleaning equipment that minimizes the use of chemicals.
Cleaning workers can also be exposed to different types of biological agents such as microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and molds) and their byproducts such as fungal secretions and bacterial endotoxins present in the dust, dirt and mold as well as aerosols created during vacuum cleaning. The exposure is the same as for chemical hazards — mainly inhalation and dermal uptake (absorption) and occasionally accidental ingestion.
Eco-friendly hotel initiatives are growing increasingly popular, and many hotels are recognized for their efforts by organizations such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Do not be afraid to ask hotel staff about the cleaning products they use or research the topic yourself. LEED-certified hotels use chemical-free cleaning products and other impressive green practices.
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
I imagine that when writer Hans Christian Andersen mused, “Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale,” he was standing at the edge of Copenhagen’s historic Tivoli Gardens, one of his favorite haunts, enlivened by the swirl of human happiness that surrounded him: children laughing; carousels spinning; games of chance played for prizes; lovers holding hands; hungry people whispering over sweets, hot drinks, beer and towering, open-faced smørrebrød, Denmark’s quintessential sandwich. That fairy tale lives on today at the second-oldest amusement park in the world, a spectacle of folly architecture, bakeries, gardens, rides, restaurants, puppet shows and joy ... and which also happens to be one of the city’s most storied places to convene for business.
The Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) Convention 2021 will be unlike any other convention before it, as we come together in person for the first time since the business travel industry drastically changed and look forward to rebuilding and reshaping the future. GBTA Convention 2021 will bring all of us together to learn from experts and each other, in-person at Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 17–19. The safety of our attendees is our top priority. View health and safety protocols.
The restored Park Hyatt Toronto reopened its doors, bringing luxury, sophistication and glamour alongside a nod to the hotel’s Canadian heritage. Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge collaborated on the hotel’s refresh, drawing inspiration from Canada’s seasons and natural landscapes.
I recently dined at Irwin’s in Philadelphia. The restaurant is located on the rooftop of the Bok Building, a former school turned collective of small businesses, non-profits, artist workshops, a bar and restaurant. I previously visited Bok for the bar and yoga classes, and I was excited to experience the restaurant.
GBTA’s Convention 2021 will bring the business travel industry together for the first time in a long time. Once again, you’ll learn and connect with experts and each other, along with discussions with leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and change makers addressing the issues that matter most.
The Global Business Travel Association, the world’s largest business travel and meetings trade organization, recently released a statement from GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang regarding the Biden administration’s recent announcement that the U.S. travel ban will be relaxed in November for vaccinated travelers from 26 Schengen countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Arriving early afternoon in Puerto Rico, we jumped in an Uber and took a short, 15-minute drive from the airport to La Concha. As it was Tuesday, the streets were not too busy and the hotel lobby was calm. During the weekend, the scene likely would have been more bustling. We were greeted by a staff member who requested proof of vaccination and government-issued ID, and were given a wristband to indicate we were fully vaccinated. All guests are required to be vaccinated and wear masks at all times while moving around the hotel. Hand sanitizer stations were placed around the lobby, in elevators and in each common area.
Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.
It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Nice, France, with us.