Indoor Air Quality
Over the past few decades, clean air practices have become increasingly important
in progressive hotel management. These changes have not only led to an increase in
energy efficiency and reduced exposure to health-related liabilities but have also
created positive impacts on the "bottom line" and higher employee and guest
Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the
primary causes of indoor air quality problems. According to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality can be up to 10 times worse than the
quality of outside air. There are many sources of indoor air pollution. These
include the combustion of fuels such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal and wood; building
materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorating insulation, wet or damp
carpets, and furnishings made of certain pressed wood products; products for
cleaning and maintenance; central heating and cooling systems and humidification
The EPA has recognized and promotes the importance of clean air practices. The
following Best Management Practices (BMPs) are recommended for establishing clean air
programs at green hotels.
General Indoor Air Quality BMPs
Make indoor air quality a top priority.
Facility management should make indoor air quality a top priority because it can
impact many areas of operation. Not only are guest impacted by poor air quality but
so are employees, equipment efficiencies, insurance premiums and ultimately the
Develop a plan for providing for and improving the indoor air quality of
A written indoor air quality plan should be an integral part of any facility’s
environmental plan. The indoor air quality plan should outline the overall air
quality goals of the facility, highlight air quality issues and concerns and set
specific air quality improvement targets based on those concerns.
Communicate indoor air quality policies to guest, employees, vendors,
suppliers and contractors.
Demonstrate the facility’s commitment to good indoor air quality by clearly
communicating any policies to all guest, employees, vendors, suppliers and
contractors to increase adoption of the facility’s policies and plans.
Eliminate any cause of mold and mildew.
The most common causes of mold and mildew problems are leaks, condensation and poor
ventilation. According to the EPA, the key to preventing mold and mildew growth is
to control the amount of moisture in a given area. This can be accomplished
- Quickly finding and repairing any leaks in the building. In large facilities, the search for leaks should be a continual process.
- Watching for condensation and wet spots.
- Keeping heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) drip pans clean.
- Properly venting moisture-generating appliances to the outside.
- Maintaining low indoor humidity. Indoor humidity should be between 35 and 55 percent.
- Performing regular inspections and maintaining any necessary logs.
- Drying and cleaning any wet or damp spots as soon as possible.
Maintain a 100 percent smoke-free facility.
Eliminate smoking from all indoor areas of the facility, including guest rooms.
Position all outside smoking areas away from doors, windows, intake fans, air return
ducts and sitting areas.
Properly vent areas, such as kitchens and laundries that have inherent
indoor air quality issues.
Kitchen and laundries are both areas that often contain high levels of moisture and
are at an increased risk to development mold and mildew problem. Laundries often
have high levels of dust and particulate matter in the air which can lead to
respiratory problems. The air found in kitchens can contain known respiratory
irritants such as food seasonings and smoke.
Indoor Air Quality BMPs Related to Chemicals
Use environmentally preferable cleaners, whenever feasible.
Switch from using traditional cleaners to cleaning products that do not contain
nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA), chlorine bleach, phosphates, artificial dyes and
imitation fragrances. Environmentally preferable cleaners have been shown to reduce
liability costs associated with insurance, increase both employee satisfaction and
retention and lower the rate of lost-time accidents.
Properly label, store, track and dispose of all chemicals.
Proper management of all chemical materials reduces the likelihood of hazardous
exposure to guests, staff and the environment. In most cases, this is required by
regulation. Read and publicly post each chemical’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
or have them available in a common area for review when needed.
Integrated pest management is used to control pests.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, integrated pest management is a
coordinated system of managing pests that combines inspection, monitoring, treatment
and evaluation, with special emphasis placed on the decreased use of toxic agents
for control and treatment. The use of integrated pest management will reduce the
reliance on generally applied toxic agents for pest control and substitute it with
Regularly test for hazardous substances such as radon, carbon monoxide,
lead and asbestos.
Develop a testing schedule for hazardous substances. Track results and immediately
correct any issues that are found.
Use low or no volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and finishes.
The use of paints and finishes with high levels of VOCs has been shown to cause
temporary health problems including headaches, nausea and dizziness. However, long
term exposure, such as that experienced by professional painters, can include major
respiratory problems and damage to the liver and kidney. The benefits of low or
no-VOC content paints and finishes are wide and varied. These benefits include lower
disposal and cleanup costs, reduced amounts of hazardous wastes and toxic fumes,
less personal exposure and decreased environmental air pollution.
Eliminate or reduce the use of deodorizers, chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)
products and aerosols in guest rooms, common areas and office spaces.
Using deodorizers and aerosols with fragrances can lead to respiratory distress in
part of the general population. Instead of using these products to mask distasteful
odors such as cigarette smoke, mold or mildew, it is better to remedy the causes of
the odors so that there is not a risk of reoccurrence. Products containing CFCs have
been directly linked to depleting the ozone layer. Any CFC containing products
should be recovered, recycled and properly disposed.
Indoor Air Quality BMPs Related to Equipment
Properly maintain heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
systems by doing the following:
- Prepare and follow a preventative maintenance plan.
- Maintain HVAC system maintenance logs.
- Ensure that HVAC systems are regularly checked for mold, mildew, obstructions
to air flow (blocked vents) and clean drip pans.
- Clean all drip and condensation pans regularly.
Use HVAC air filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of
8 or better.
The use of MERV8 or better filters will improve the indoor air quality of your
facility. So as to not generate unneeded waste, do not replace old filters with
MERV8 filters all at once. The facility should prepare a written schedule for
gradually replacing the traditional filters with those that have a rating of MERV8
Clean air handling units and coils at least once per year.
Dust, mold and mildew all thrive in the dark, moist environments found in HVAC
systems. Regular cleaning of these units will lead to improved air quality.
Verify that HVAC units are properly drained.
Liquid and condensation drainage from HVAC units should be directed into the
sanitary sewer not to stormwater drains. Drainage pipes should be checked for
blockages, leaks and mildew/algae growth regularly.
Use dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture in wet areas.
Dehumidifiers remove excess moisture from the air and can assist in reducing the
likelihood of mold and mildew growth. Drip pans and drainage systems should be
emptied, cleaned and inspected regularly.
Properly vent exhaust fans.
If possible, all exhaust fans should vent to the outside. Improperly vented fans can
lead to increased moisture related issues, higher levels of indoor air pollutants
and an increase in energy consumption.
Regularly clean all fans, vents and indoor grates throughout the
Regular cleaning will eliminate the build-up of respiratory irritants. It is
important to remember that while cleaning, proper Personal Protection Equipment, such
as masks, gloves and safety glasses should be used.