SUNDAY, June 17, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Television remotes and bedside lamp switches are right up there with toilets and bathrooms sinks in having the highest levels of bacterial contamination in U.S. hotel rooms, a new study shows.
It also found high levels of bacterial contamination on sponges, mops and other items on housekeeper's carts. This is a particular cause for concern because it could lead to cross-contamination of rooms, according to the University of Houston researchers.
Their analysis of samples collected from 19 surfaces in three hotel rooms in three states -- Texas, Indiana and South Carolina -- and found the lowest levels of contamination on bed headboards, curtain rods and bathroom door handles.
The researchers could not say whether or nor the bacteria detected in the hotel rooms can cause disease, but said that the contamination levels are a reliable indicator of overall cleanliness. Unclean rooms pose a potential risk to guests, especially those with weakened immune systems.
The study was scheduled to be presented Sunday at an American Society for Microbiology meeting, in San Francisco.
"Hoteliers have an obligation to provide their guests with a safe and secure environment. Currently, housekeeping practices vary across brands and properties with little or no standardization industry wide. The current validation method for hotel room cleanliness is a visual assessment, which has been shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation," Katie Kirsch, an undergraduate student at the University of Houston, said in a society news release.
She said the study findings could help hotels develop more effective and efficient ways to clean rooms.
"Currently, housekeepers clean 14 to 16 rooms per eight-hour shift, spending approximately 30 minutes on each room. Identifying high-risk items within a hotel room would allow housekeeping managers to strategically design cleaning practices and allocate time to efficiently reduce the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination in hotel rooms," Kirsch explained.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health has more about germs.