by Ann Pietrangelo
A preliminary study of contamination found on surfaces in hotel rooms could help improve hotel housekeeping practices and provide a safer environment for travelers. Researchers from the University of Houston reported on the experiment at 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
As you might expect, samples from the toilet and bathroom sink show high levels of contamination. Also on the list of surfaces showing fecal contamination are the television remote control and the lamp switch beside the bed.
Like in the kitchen, cross-contamination is a problem in hotel rooms. The researchers found some of the highest levels of contamination on items from housekeeping carts, including sponges and mops.
The lowest levels of contamination were found on the bed’s headboard, curtain rods, and the bathroom door handle.
Researchers can’t say for certain if the bacteria found cause disease, but say contamination levels are reliable in assessing overall cleanliness.
“Hoteliers have an obligation to provide their guests with a safe and secure environment. Currently, housekeeping practices vary across brands and properties with little or no standardization industry wide. The current validation method for hotel room cleanliness is a visual assessment, which has been shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation,” says Katie Kirsch an undergraduate student at the University of Houston who presented the study.
“Currently, housekeepers clean 14-16 rooms per eight-hour shift, spending approximately 30 minutes on each room. Identifying high-risk items within a hotel room would allow housekeeping managers to strategically design cleaning practices and allocate time to efficiently reduce the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination in hotel rooms,” says Kirsch.
A lack of industry standards and occasional illness outbreaks in hotels have the public paying more attention to hotel cleanliness.
While the study was limited (three hotel rooms each in Indiana, South Carolina, and Texas; and 19 surfaces in each room), it is the first step in applying the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system to hotel room cleanliness. Developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, HACCP is a systematic preventive approach that identifies potential physical, chemical and biological hazards and designs measurements to reduce these risks to safe levels.
“The information derived from this study could aid hotels in adopting a proactive approach for reducing potential hazards from contact with surfaces within hotel rooms and provide a basis for the development of more effective and efficient housekeeping practices,” says Kirsch.
Also participating in the study with Kirsch and her colleagues at the University of Houston were researchers from Purdue University and the University of South Carolina.
Source: Press Release/American Society for Microbiology