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Caution! Five Ways Your Vacation Can Be Hazardous To Your Health: A Special Report from the Center For Natural and Integrative Medicine

At the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine, we  know that many of you are taking advantage of the last days of summer. You are enjoying vacations, week-ends and daytrips with family and friends.

You and your families are staying at quaint little beach motels, high-rise metropolitan hotels, and budget-based highway inns. We do not want to discourage you, but just to caution you: Are you aware of the health hazards some vacation places present to you and your family? This blog will give you some tips to help you choose a hotel or motel for a healthy holiday.

This week, just in time for those final vacation days of the summer, we offer you our Top Vacation Health Cautions. No one wants to risk their fun time with a trip to the emergency room.

1. Caution: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire:  Smoking Hotel Rooms

The sign on your family’s door might read “non-smoking,” but a recent study has shown that if a hotel or motel has smoking rooms, the smoke roams. Nicotine residue and other chemical traces “don’t stay in the smoking rooms.” Georg Matt, a psychologist from San Diego State University, who led a recent study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, stated “They end up in the hallways and in other rooms, including non-smoking rooms. If a hotel permits smoking in any of its rooms, the smoke gets into all of its rooms.”

Many big hotel chains are forbidding smoking completely, in their rooms and on their grounds: Marriott, Westin and Comfort Inn, are among your smoke-free choices, with many other hotel chains following suit. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation recently stated, “Nearly two-thirds of hotels responding to a recent survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association said they were smoke-free, though just 39% of economy hotels said so.”

Here’s the break-down of danger:

A. Smoke slithers under doorways.
B. Smoke sweeps through ventilation systems, from areas where smoking is permitted.
C. Residue and pollutants saturate and cling to furniture, drapes, and carpets. We call this “third-hand” smoke. You must be especially aware of this problem if you travel with someone who has asthma or allergy.

2. Caution: A Showering Problem

Many plastic shower curtains purchased at reputable places have a distinctive and lingering odor. Unlike new car smell, new shower curtain smell is unpleasant. This is understandable, given that over 108 toxins are  involved in this   “off-gassing,”  (VOCs), phthalates, organotins and metals. All of these can cause developmental damage as well as injury to the liver, central nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems of hotel guests. (We hope you have fabric shower curtains at home.) Chemicals can hang in the air 28 days after a PVC shower curtain is freshly hung.

3. Caution: Smelling To Good To Be True

If you step off an elevator and are greeted by a cool blast of spice, washed with vanilla and perfumed with lavender, beware! You have walked into a hotel which is sending chemically fragrant products through a the ventilation system. A good hotel cleans up offending odors as opposed to covering them up with chemicals and perfumes. Check out this source for more information.

These artificial, chemical fragrances create a true threat to those who have respiratory and cognitive related reactions to these toxins.

4. Caution: No such thing as a free lunch!

Actually, this relates to breakfast! Some of the free breakfast buffet fares being offered, is so full of chemicals, preservatives, fats and carbohydrates,  that you would never serve it at home. Some of the free fares is simply old, and some of it might have been exposed to bacteria because of inadequate sneeze guards and storage. You can exercise some caution here. Remember the old adage about “you get what you pay for.” “Free” should not mean you pay for it with a bellyache.

5. Caution: Ah, a good night’s sleep! Are you sleeping with the enemy?

While some hotels do an outstanding job with their sheets, others use the cheapest, roughest cotton sheets they can find. Did you know that “cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop?” Here are the facts: $2.6 billion worth of pesticides are sprayed on cotton fields each year — More than 10% of total pesticides used and nearly 25% of insecticides used worldwide.

Experts say, “Many of the most hazardous pesticides on the market, including broad spectrum organophosphates and carbamate pesticides, are sprayed on cotton fields.” If the hotel has purchased inexpensive sheets, then, in spite of processing, you and your family are going to sleep with those chemicals, plus the detergeant, perfumed fabric softener, and chlorox bleach utilized to get them reasonably sanitary.

So, what is being done to provide safe haven for travelers? Health, a reputable online magazine, recently published a list of Healthy Hotels, including Fairmont, Four Seasons, Kimpton and Hilton as their top four healthiest choices in America.  Experts agree that some individuals are extremely sensitive, and that many allergens can be “virulent in hotel rooms and on hotel menus.” They say that, for people who experience everyday allergens,going away on holiday or business trips “can be far from the relaxing experience that it should be. We aim to change that, and give you a choice of accommodations worldwide where consideration has been given to your needs.” If you know you have allergies and sensitivities try imputing your destination to this site, and see if there is an existing “allergy-friendly” hotel for you. Even if  you don’t have allergies, you should ask your intended host pointed questions about air quality, shower curtains, free breakfast, and linens.

At home or on vacation, the Center For Natural and Integrative Medicine guards the wellness and the well-being of your body, mind and spirit.  Would you like to know more about how seriously we take our mission?  We invite you to read this special page; you might find answers to questions you have never evn asked yourself.

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