One of the main priorities of most travelers is to not be disturbed in a hotel room which is clean and comfortable in order to get the proper rest — but what if you stayed in a hotel room which completely disinfects itself every morning? Is that even possible?
A Hotel Room Which Disinfects Itself?
In addition to engaging in such sustainability initiatives as ensuring that the food served at its hotel properties is required to be at least 90 percent organic and having the lights turned off for Earth Hour every year at all of its hotel properties, Brøchner Hotels has been embracing a new technology with which clean hotel rooms do not require the traditional attention which is given by members of the housekeeping staff.
Two of its hotel properties currently have rooms which purportedly clean themselves: Hotel Ottilia and Hotel Herman K — both of which are located in Denmark — are the first in the world to use a proprietary product known as ACT CleanCoat, which is manufactured by a company called ACT.Global in Kastrup. The transparent and odorless coating is purportedly specifically engineered to disinfect surfaces on which it is applied by using a natural process known as photocatalysis, during which natural humidity and oxygen are turned into free radicals by titanium dioxide in presence of light.
According to the Danish company, surfaces which have been applied with the coating become self-disinfecting when activated by sunlight in the morning; and harmful microbes and chemical compounds — such as bacteria, viruses, airborne mold spores and volatile organic compounds — are safely decomposed and ultimately rendered harmless. The air inside of a hotel room can reportedly be purified for as long as one year if the coating is applied to all of the surfaces within the room, which means that cigarette smoke, odors and other contaminants will be removed; and guests will no longer be concerned about being infected with influenza, salmonella — and, allegedly, even allergens.
At a cost of approximately $2,500.00 for an entire hotel room to be coated with the product — the entire room must be completely emptied prior to its annual application — lodging companies are not exactly clamoring to embrace this technology just yet…
…but the cost savings of significantly reduced water consumption and the constant use of chemical products. Additionally, surfaces and materials would purportedly last longer, as they would not be in danger of having chemicals — such as bleach, for example — accidentally spilled on them.
What About Members of the Housekeeping Staff?
With ACT CleanCoat applied in rooms at hotel properties, housekeepers would theoretically no longer be required to work with harmful chemical detergents and cleaners — or, worse, breathe their fumes. They would still be needed to vacuum the floors, ensure that all linens are dry cleaned, and simply wipe down surfaces — but that would be about the extent of their roles in maintaining hotel rooms.
Because members of the housekeeping staff would have fewer things to do when maintaining a hotel room, the cursory cleaning means faster turnaround for guests — and without using chemical products which can cause allergic reactions and dry out the skin of those who use them.
According to this article from the United States National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, titanium dioxide in and of itself is indeed safe — but if nanoparticles of titanium dioxide are a byproduct of ACT CleanCoat, a cause for concern may be warranted:
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is considered as an inert and safe material and has been used in many applications for decades. However, with the development of nanotechnologies TiO2 nanoparticles, with numerous novel and useful properties, are increasingly manufactured and used. Therefore increased human and environmental exposure can be expected, which has put TiO2 nanoparticles under toxicological scrutiny. Mechanistic toxicological studies show that TiO2 nanoparticles predominantly cause adverse effects via induction of oxidative stress resulting in cell damage, genotoxicity, inflammation, immune response etc. The extent and type of damage strongly depends on physical and chemical characteristics of TiO2 nanoparticles, which govern their bioavailability and reactivity. Based on the experimental evidence from animal inhalation studies TiO2 nanoparticles are classified as “possible carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as occupational carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The studies on dermal exposure to TiO2 nanoparticles, which is in humans substantial through the use of sunscreens, generally indicate negligible transdermal penetration; however data are needed on long-term exposure and potential adverse effects of photo-oxidation products. Although TiO2 is permitted as an additive (E171) in food and pharmaceutical products we do not have reliable data on its absorption, distribution, excretion and toxicity on oral exposure. TiO2 may also enter environment, and while it exerts low acute toxicity to aquatic organisms, upon long-term exposure it induces a range of sub-lethal effects.
When Starwood Hotels and Resorts first introduced the concept of rewarding guests with points when they refused to have their rooms cleaned and serviced for a certain period of time, members of housekeeping staffs were concerned that less work meant that some of them would lose their jobs — which prompted vocal anger and protests amongst them.
Because the labor load could be reduced by as much as half in hotel rooms which have been applied with ACT CleanCoat, does this new innovation mean a happier housekeeping staff — or could it stoke concerns of the obsolescence of some members, who may fear ultimately losing their jobs?
While this innovation sounds like it could very well be a revolutionary disrupter in the lodging industry worldwide, I am still cautiously skeptical that it is a completely viable solution, as I do not know the full extent of all of its drawbacks and disadvantages — which do include the expensive cost, the consumption of time to apply the coating, and the possible reduction of housekeeping staff.
With the potential to reduce microbes and allergens — and the overall potential to help protect and improve the environment — I cannot help but wonder if airlines will adopt usage of this product. After all, imagine the possibility of cleaner air and fewer incidents of allergies aboard airplanes with quicker turnaround times and shorter layovers of flights…