|By Julie Wernau, Chicago
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 15, 2010--Bed bugs aren't the only critters that can steal sleep from hotel guests. Dust mites, which live and multiply in bedding, carpeting and upholstered furniture, have kept allergy and asthma sufferers awake for centuries.
Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. announced this week the launch of "allergy friendly rooms," the first major chain to offer hypoallergenic rooms across its brands.
The rooms will be priced at an extra $20 to $30 per night.
The move comes as Hyatt and other hoteliers look to capitalize on the growing number of allergy sufferers. About 54 percent of Americans are sensitive to at least one allergen, according to the National Institutes of Health, and allergy rates are two to five times higher than in 1980.
Allergy sufferers end up sneezing, itching or can have asthmatic attacks because their bodies mistake allergens such as odors, mold, dust or animal dander as harmful, triggering an immune response, according to the NIH. Dust mites, a major component of dust, are one of the more common allergens and can be found in mattresses, pillows, carpets and upholstery.
A frequently cited 1996 study in New Zealand found that hotel carpeting and beds had the highest concentration of dust mite allergens of any public place, including hospitals, rest homes, churches, child care centers and movie theaters. Dust mite allergens are highest in people's homes.
Hyatt is relying on Pure Solutions, a privately held New York-based company that claims it can remove 98 percent of bacteria and viruses from hotel rooms.
Hyatt said that between 3 and 5 percent of rooms at Hyatt Resort, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt and Andaz properties across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean will have hypoallergenic rooms available by the end of 2010, for a total of 2,000 rooms at 125 properties.
About 60 Hyatt hotels currently offer the rooms. Tom Smith, vice president of rooms for Hyatt, said Pure is paying to implement the program and to recertify rooms in the future. Pure and Hyatt will share revenue from the higher rates. If the rooms prove to be popular, Hyatt will pay to expand the program, Smith said.
Green Suites Hotel Solutions, headquartered in Upland, Calif., has had a program to reduce hotel allergens for nearly two decades. Rather than aiming to remove allergens, their EcoRooms, available at about 100 hotels, use nontoxic, all-natural cleaning products, special paints and other measures to prevent allergens.
"We have a ton of press from 1993, but this was just something that was just way ahead of our time," said Dan Bornholdt, president of Green Suites. "We've had more interest in this in the last six months than we have had in the last 10 years, so there's clearly a shift taking place."
When Brian Brault, chief executive of Pure Solutions for North America, walked into the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Thursday to show off a Respire by Hyatt room, it wasn't exactly polite dinner conversation.
"Those things are everywhere," he said of allergens. "You open that window, and you're going to pull in mold and mildew spores into the room."
Pure's technicians first take apart the air-handling system in the room, disinfect the parts, treat them with an agent to ward off moisture and add a tea tree oil cartridge that releases a natural anti-microbial agent.
After disinfecting every surface in the room, Pure "shocks" the room for two to three hours with highly concentrated ozone to kill mold, bacteria and other unwanted organisms.
They then spray carpets, curtains and surfaces with a bacteriostatic shield, Brault said, which lasts up to two and a half years and bonds with bacteria on a molecular level.
The rooms are also equipped with medical-grade purifiers that eliminate dust, odor and small particles. The purifier's HEPA filter is surrounded in an electric field to kill additional contaminants.
Beds and pillows are encased in microfiber that is impenetrable to dust mites, and allergens in the pillow feathers are removed, Brault said. Pure technicians return every six months to certify that a room meets its standards.
To find a hypoallergenic room, visit pureroom.com. Guests can book Respire by Hyatt rooms at respire.hyatt.com.
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