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Hotels in ASIA ignore warning signs of environmental killers

Citing insufficient manpower and low budgets, hotel operators are guilty of negligence of the most basic health and safety checks. From hotel owners to senior engineers there is little enthusiasm or willpower to act responsibly.

Some molds produce mycotoxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. Exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and more serious problems including death.

Prolonged exposure, e.g., daily workplace exposure, can be particularly harmful.

Black mold in hotel air conditioning units showing years of neglect

Not enough is being done to clean and sanitize air conditioning equipment. Annual cleaning is a minimum. Inspections by outside engineers have found black mold and dangerous bacteria in Asia’s hotels some showing signs of not being cleaned in decades. Air quality is compromised. Spores and microscopic pathogens like Legionnaires’ disease –known killers – go unchecked.

Hotel operators have failed to act and there is evidence that some local operators ignore public safety. Even top-level management at head offices fail to act to deal with air quality issues that are known to cause illness, preferring to ignore the problem rather than tackle it head-on.

The problems have been well documented by shocked engineers specializing in air handling equipment that has been shared with this journalist. Hotel operators in Asia continue to ignore the warning signs. Guests health and safety is often compromised.

Experts described this inactivity by hotel operators as a scandal, hotel operators are unwilling to admit that a problem exists. It’s considered nonessential work and is only paid lip-service.

The air we breathe contains millions of microscopic organisms. The vast majority are harmless, however, given the right conditions of moisture and heat they can turn nasty. Black mold can develop and responsible engineers have ways to tackle the problem. Today this can be done without the use of hazardous chemicals like acids that produce dangerous fumes and destroys equipment.

All public spaces can pose a risk if regular servicing of air conditioners are not carried out. Hospitals, schools, ships, aircraft, and supermarkets are all at risk. It’s the responsibility of the managers and their engineers to act responsibly.

Turning a blind eye to public safety is not new in Asia. There is little enforcement. Too few resources and its low priority status means that inspections are few and far between.

And it’s not just Asia. As recently as 2015 a spectacular failure in a New York hotel led to 10 people’s death in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. More than 100 people were hospitalized. A stark warning to hotels in Asia where the dangers are so often ignored and there are fewer inspections.

Legionnaires’ disease is a powerful pathogen that can easily spread through the air conditioning system. If an outbreak occurs the damage is huge. Reputations are destroyed, businesses can fail and the resulting litigation can be catastrophic.

Mould especially black mold, is rife in hotels in Asia, with its warm tropical climate. It presents significant health problems.

Guests and customers need to understand these risk and hotel operators in Asia need to be more responsive to public safety. Customers have the right to know that the air is safe and equipment is regularly cleaned, free from dangerous mold. Customers and guests need to be careful. Operators need to provide guests with air quality assurances showing certificates that their air conditioning systems are certified clean and safe. We have it for lifts so why not for the air that we breathe?

Inexpensive solutions already exist. Public spaces and rooms in hotels can be kept free from harm but there is little willpower to act. From hotel owners to managers; from governments to local authorities, it’s not happening.

It’s vital hotel owners and operators have a clear and concise position on environmental safety. A strict regime of planned, professional maintenance must be organized. If we don’t act responsibly and self-manage this important aspect of our business then government and local authorities will step-in and introduce legislation forcing the hotel industry to comply.

It is the responsibility of hotel companies to act, not only to protect the public but to also protect their shareholders and employees. Doing nothing is dangerous, it can lead to loss of jobs, multiple litigation claims and even closure of businesses.

Hotel operators in Asia have responsibility for standards and to provide a safe and healthy work environment and well-known brands have management contracts with health and safety compliance clauses signed by the management company/hotel brand and property owners.

Competent managers will closely audit their own positions on environmental health which must include the air conditioning equipment.

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