Business services company, Rentokil Initial is calling on workplaces including shopping centres and hospitality venues, to adopt strategies to improve air quality to make these spaces safer for customers, visitors and staff in the return to a ‘Covid normal’ life.

Despite acknowledgement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that SARS-CoV-2 is an airborne virus, most Australian businesses have no formal air hygiene practices in place or guidelines to follow, according to Rentokil Initial national technical and innovation manager, John Keogh.  

“We are facing the worst indoor air quality crisis in history. It has never been clearer that businesses need to take action to protect their customers, employees, and bottom-line against the risks of poor indoor air quality. Typical air purifiers are not effective against ‘sick air’, including viruses, bacteria and mould, which is increasingly threatening physical and mental acuity,” he said.

Rentokil Initial is bringing Radic8’s VirusKiller air purifier to Australia and New Zealand, which is proven to kill 99.9999% of Coronavirus in the air (when independently tested against Coronavirus DF2, a surrogate for Coronavirus, on a single air pass).

“VirusKiller will help local businesses protect against health risks in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, including those posed by airborne pathogens. This first-of-its-kind product which with its patented technology to purify and decontaminate the air, is unparalleled in efficacy against airborne viruses, including Covid-19,” Keogh said.

Recently commissioned research by Rentokil Initial shows more than four in five Australians (83%) believe businesses have a responsibility to protect customers against health and hygiene risks, with two-thirds of Australians (64%) more likely to visit an indoor venue that has air hygiene protocols in place.

In addition, over three-quarters of Australians (77%) believe that protecting against Covid-19 airborne transmission risks is crucial in the return to normal.

Former Dean of Science at University of Technology Sydney, Professor Bruce Milthorpe believes lockdowns alone are not enough to tackle the pandemic.

“When Covid-19 was first identified in Australia in early 2020, we were shown a simple model, and told to ‘flatten the curve’. Lockdowns were proven effective in stopping early variants that were largely transmitted by contact and droplet transmission, but the Delta strain has outstripped the current lockdown,” Professor Milthorpe said.

“Research shows that aerosol transmission in places of low ventilation, such as hotels, aged care facilities, and medical practices, is the likely cause of current transmission. This is because poor ventilation means aerosols remain for a long time after the person has left.”

Australians identified shopping centres and hospitality venues (68%), hotels and aged care facilities (67%), medical practices (64%), and workplaces (55%) as the most at-risk venues for airborne transmission of Covid-19 and other viruses.

“It’s time to prioritise the reduction of aerosol transmission within these highly frequented indoor venues to end lockdown. Innovative solutions with proven credentials are a crucial step in helping restore consumer confidence and paving the way to our new normal,” Professor Milthorpe added.

VirusKiller uses a patented UV-C reactor chamber to safely and efficiently decontaminate airborne viruses and biological pathogens that traditional filters do not. It is the only product in the market to kill 99.9999% of bacteria in a single pass, sending clean, fresh air back into the room in real-time.

“We are proud to bring businesses a world-class and proven solution to help address these concerns, but more needs to be done to realise its full potential. Crucial to long-term, effective change against air quality risks, are regulatory reforms, government commitments to improve air quality standards and clear air hygiene guidelines to keep our community safe,” Keogh said.

Member of the International Code Council NEHA Pandemic Task Force, Professor Geoff Hanmer, welcomes the call for updated guidance and standards.

“I am keen to see air purifiers used in institutional settings where air quality is a critical issue and ventilation is inadequate. The right air purifiers can be an effective means of reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, but they must be carefully selected, vetted, and located to deliver best performance and ensure they meet minimum safety requirements,” he said.

“Not all air purifiers are created alike. It is important to match the capacity of the purifier with the area of the room and the level of risk. In high-risk environments, a purifier combining a HEPA filter with an activated carbon filter and UV-C sterilization may offer some advantages.”

VirusKiller is now available to businesses and consumers in Australia and New Zealand.