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Booking a hotel can be quite a hassle when you don’t know where to start. Is the service good? Is the food fresh? Are the rooms cleaned? As it turns out, there is one more factor that needs to be looked at… one that is often forgotten about. We’re talking about the indoor air quality in hotels! It might not sound like an important point to look at, but as it turns out, indoor air pollution is rampant in there. Staying in such a polluted environment is bound to affect your stay. For this reason, here’s some information about what’s really going on with hotels and pollutants. We’ve also included some tips so that you know what to look for next time you’re booking a hotel.

The truth about indoor air quality in hotels

No one talks about this so it’s our duty to inform you about the truth of indoor air quality in hotels. As it turns out, lots of pollutants form inside those buildings; although their source will surprise you.

Vast amounts of pollutants are released from products that hotels use.1

These pollutants are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and they come from products such as:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Synthetic materials
  • Paints
  • Pesticides

Now, don’t get us wrong. We understand that having clean surfaces in the hospitality industry is vital. The problem is that there’s no cleaning of the leftover chemicals coming out of those products. If hotels were to do this, they could get rid of a good portion of the chemicals that come out of cleaning products and such. If you think that’s not worth putting the time and effort it requires, think again! VOCs can cause serious problems to people’s health:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Allergic skin reaction
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system

With a list like this, it’s hard to believe that VOCs are inoffensive. Yet, they often go by unheard of. This is why people need to be made aware of their existence. If no one knows what VOCS are, or how dangerous they can be, then no one is going to do anything about them. This brings us to a question which is:

What can we do about VOCS?

Here’s the more “complex” part. You see, VOCs will remain indoors as long as you don’t eject them outside. With this in mind, we need to come up with a way to filter them out. The best way to go on about this is to have a proper ventilation system inside the building you’re going to be staying in.

Now, hold on a minute. We know what you’re thinking… “Can’t we just open the windows of the hotel room that we’re going to be staying in?” Technically, yes… but no. Here’s the problem with that:

Opening windows doesn’t provide enough airflow and air filtration; it’s also weather dependent.

If you really want to filter out VOCs and other pollutants, you need a proper airflow and filtration system. Otherwise, there’s not going to be enough air circulation in your room to purify the indoor air. So, as a customer, you can do your part by opening your room’s window(s), and it will help a bit, but that’s about all you can do.

The hard truth about knowing whether or not a hotel has a good ventilation system is that you have to do your own research about the place you’re going to be staying. Feel free to ask them what their ventilation system is like. Also, if any hotel owner or employee is reading this, feel free to check out these tips on how to improve indoor air quality:

  • Use fans to increase outdoor airflow from opened windows
  • Have a ventilation system that works properly for the amount of people staying in the hotel
  • Increase air filtration while maintaining a good airflow in the building
  • Inspect air filters to make sure they’re working as intended
  • Inspect exhaust ventilation system to ensure that they’re working properly2

There are more solutions that can be implemented to counter VOC pollution, but this gives you a good idea of what needs to be done. Now, we’ve only talked about VOCs. We still need to look at the other pollutants present in hotels. Take note though that the solutions mentioned above will still be effective against most forms of indoor pollution.

Now, for the pollutant that has a bad reputation all around the world… CO2!

Indoor air quality in hotels polluted by CO2

CO2 heavily impacts air quality in hotels

If VOCs weren’t enough, now we have to worry about CO2!? If that’s what you’re thinking, then we’re sorry to inform you that yes, that is indeed the case. Unfortunately, with the amount of people staying in hotels, the CO2 levels go up quickly… without proper ventilation that is.

Just like VOCs, CO2 can be filtered with proper air ventilation and filtering systems. Therefore, if you’re looking at a hotel that has implanted the measures described in the VOC section, then its CO2 levels should be low. We’re still, of course, going to provide you with information about CO2 so that you can stay informed about its impact on indoor air quality in hotels.

As we’ve said, high amounts of people in a building causes CO2 levels to go up and so does poor air ventilation. However, there are other factors that also contribute to high indoor levels of CO2 such as:

  • How long people have been there
  • The size of the rooms
  • The amount of cars circulating outside (they emit CO2)
  • The amount of CO2 already present in outdoor air3

As you can see, CO2 levels have a lot to do with congestion; meaning that the more CO2 emitters are present for long periods of time, the higher CO2 levels will be indoors!

So, what’s considered a high CO2 level and what health effects come with it?

When it comes to CO2, a high level would be above 5,000 ppm. You would need to stay in such an environment for many hours though to experience adverse health effects. Symptoms that emanate from high CO2 levels include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Reduced productivity
  • Respiratory irritation3 4

These are general symptoms that you’re bound to get when you’re in an environment with too much CO2. You could also get CO2 poisoning if the levels were high enough (around 40,000ppm), but the chances of that happening are unlikely.

We’ve now looked at VOCs and CO2. There is one more pollutant though that we need to address. It’s the dreaded… mold!

Mold impacts indoor air quality in hotels

Mold and its impact on indoor air quality in hotels

Mold formation differs from that of VOCs and CO2. In fact, mold forms in areas that are high in humidity. Because of that, it’s important to keep an eye on indoor humidity levels to make sure that mold doesn’t form. This is why hotels, and the general public, need to equip their building with hygrometers.

By keeping track of humidity, you’ll be prepared to take action when it gets too high. So, how do you know what humidity level is considered too high and what can you do about it? Well… We have an article just for you that goes in detail about humidity and the role of hygrometers. Feel free to check it out!

Final thoughts on poor indoor air quality in hotels

When all is said and done, it’s easy to see that we don’t pay enough attention to the air we breathe. There are so many factors that contribute to the quality of indoor air and so many consequences that come with breathing in pollutants. This is why we need to spread more awareness and bring up quality solutions that go beyond conventional methods of purifying the air. With that said, have a lovely breeze!


  1. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2017-06/documents/hospitality_comm_info.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/ventilation.html
  3. https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/air/toxins/co2.html
  4. https://ncceh.ca/documents/practice-scenario/carbon-dioxide-indoor-air

You can read these articles too: 

Indoor Air Quality

Montreal Air Quality and Its Pollution Impact on Indoor Air

Restaurant Pollution Control – Air Quality Monitors Are Needed