Nine out of 10 people globally breathe polluted air – and many top urban destinations are recognized for unhealthy smog conditions.
With COVID-19, wildfires and overall poor air quality, there has been a pent up demand for the hotel industry to provide options for rooms with better filtration and purification. To learn more about this, HT spoke with Chris Burkhurdt, CEO of OneLife, an air purification company.
What is your definition of polluted air?
Generally, air pollution can be defined as the presence of toxic chemicals or compounds (including those of biological origin) in the air, at levels that pose a health risk. Polluted air means the air is so bad it can have a detrimental impact on one’s health conditions causing lack focus, non-restful sleep and poor exercise performance. Depending on the level of exposure and the type of pollutant inhaled, the effects can vary, ranging from simple symptoms like coughing and the irritation of the respiratory tract to acute conditions like asthma and chronic lung diseases.
How many people around the world are affected by polluted air?
Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures. 4.2 million deaths every year occur as a result of exposure to ambient outdoor air pollution and 3.8 million deaths every year as a result of household exposure.
What are some of the main causes of pollution?
The major outdoor air pollution sources include power generation, burning fossil fuels, agricultural activities, waste in landfills, exhaust from factories and industries and mining operations.
In low- and middle-income countries, mostly burning fuels such as dung, coal and wood in inefficient stoves or open hearths produce a variety of health-damaging pollutants. These include carbon monoxide, methane, particulate matter (PM), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).
Surprisingly, indoor air can sometimes be 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. This comes from everyday habits like burning candles, using hair spray, aerosol deodorants, and even cooking.
How is this affecting the hotel industry and guest concerns/desires?
Guests demand more and more comfort in terms of indoor air quality. They want to breathe fresh and clean air, especially in highly polluted areas like bigger cities, airports and industrial areas. This is why you continue to see hotel chains creating brands of wellness rooms or blocks/floors of rooms that have different types of air purification systems. This trend will only continue as consumers become more and more aware of the impact indoor air has on their health and demand that their air be as clean as possible. This is especially true as we approach a post-COVID world when it’s now becoming mandated across industries to up the ante on air purification in enclosed spaces.
Clean air automatically leads to higher levels of well-being allowing travelers to feel more energized during and after their vacation. Further, clean air leads to better sleep which in turn contributes to a better recovery and relaxation.
What can hotels do to alleviate guest concerns/address their desires when it comes to clean air?
It’s almost essential now for hotels to use air purifiers and display the air quality level to help alleviate guest concerns. Consumers are more aware than ever on how air can be harmful, especially with the COVID virus, so the demand for better air will only rise.
Hotels that already invest in performance air purification should openly communicate the benefits of clean air and show their guests that they care about their well-being and health on all levels. Hotels should also become more thoughtful on who they partner with when it comes to air purification companies. Not all are equal, and in a time when every person has access to fact-finding research, people can (and will) call you out. So, go with companies that can prove that their air purification is not only the most effective, but also sustainable. Often, air purifiers work in the moment, but later their filters become waste and the pollutants that they filter get released back into the air.
Why should clean air technology be important to hoteliers?
Each hotelier has to make sure that his guests are completely satisfied in order to win them as loyal customers but also to receive positive feedback and recommendations. In the European and US market, hoteliers have a chance to gain a competitive advantage by implementing air purification systems. Especially in times of COVID-19, in which the topic of clean air became even more relevant, hotels are able to convey a sense of safety by providing clean air. As a side effect hotels should take into account that they need less time for dusting which can contribute to cost savings.
The first impression and the feeling after leaving the hotel are of utmost importance. Even though rooms might have been flawless, odors of smoke or cleansers cannot easily be removed by opening the windows. Air purification systems are often a great solution.
In fact, clean air can give hotels a competitive edge. Hotels that take care of their indoor air are not only taking care of the obvious elements that are part of a great hotel experience such as interior, service and food quality but even go a step further by caring about the overall health of their guests.
What are the main contributors to poor indoor air? How can this be remedied?
Even if it appears to be clear indoor air, it can be heavily polluted. The most harmful particles are too small to be seen which often means we feel safer than we actually are.
Among the most common pollutants are dust particles with ultrafine dust being the most dangerous pollutants, but also invisible organic components such as many chemicals we use for cleaning our indoor spaces. And then there is smoke which - to many as a surprise - is not just the exhaust from cars or cigarette smoke but very much so from cooking indoors without proper ventilation.
What many people do not realize is that burning candles or cooking release very harmful particles and that often we do more harm than good. Just take vacuum cleaning as an example. While we want to get rid of dust, we actually push lots of fine dust into the air when we use a vacuum cleaner.
What are the best ways to clean indoor air: purifiers, opening windows, plants, etc.?
Opening windows and putting plants into your apartment does not fight the most dangerous type of air pollution which is fine dust. Actually by opening the windows potential viruses, pollen and other pollutants can be carried into your home. That plants keep the indoor air clean is a myth. The amount of stale polluted air cannot be cleaned by a few plants. However, they have a positive effect on us, because they give us a feeling of freshness, vitality and nature. Air purifiers are able to solve all these issues.