South Africa’s online sales grew by 40% over the course of six months in 2020, with an increase of more than 25% in online shoppers who were making purchases 30% more frequently. That’s according to The Online Retail Industry in South Africa 2020 report, released in September last year. Much of this activity was due to regulation, as more people took to ordering groceries online and businesses diversified their product range to provide essential items in order to stay afloat during the world’s strictest lockdown.

But what about brick-and-mortar stores? While a surge in demand has been hugely beneficial to those businesses that can thrive online, physical stores have been crippled by lockdowns and ongoing safety restrictions. Despite visible safety measures such as the adoption of PPE, handwashing and surface sanitisation, entry capacity limits and tedious track-and-trace documentation procedures, the South African walk-in customer is left feeling vulnerable and at risk. 

The truth is that it took a global pandemic to shed light on the shocking state of our indoor air quality — and the role that living, working, and shopping in places with extremely high levels of airborne particulates and pathogens has played in not only the rapid spread of COVID-19, but the poor state of public health as a whole.

Indoor air quality: A public health concern
Indoor air pollution is a risk factor for several of the world’s leading causes of death, making it a major environmental and public health challenge. Toxic fumes such as toluene from vehicle exhaust emissions, as well as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide fumes from industries make their into shopping malls and stores located close to roads, exacerbating asthma and skin reactions. 

Even more nefarious pollutants have simply become part of modern life. Benzene, ethylene glycol, and formaldehyde are emitted by carpets and furnishings in stores and  while these invisible emissions go largely undetected, they can jeopardise the physical and cognitive health of shoppers and store staff. 

As a society, we live, work, and spend time in spaces that are rife with indoor air pollutants that are a risk factor for serious diseases such as pneumonia, stroke, diabetes, and lung cancer. Our unwitting coexistence with indoor air pollution and ‘staying safe’ indoors is inadvertently harming our health. When it comes to the spread of infection, the confines of queues and crowded retail floors are a breeding ground for illness and disease. Particulate matter in the air is now known to assist in the transmission of viruses like COVID-19, and bioaerosols can remain active for hours after a customer or member of staff speaks, sneezes, or coughs. 

Indoor air safety in retail spaces
It is time that retailers and businesses started to treat the air in their spaces with the same level of care as the hygiene of surfaces, the maintenance of equipment and handling of food — and provide customers with the reassurance that the air in their stores is safe, healthy, and welcoming. However, treating the air is no trivial task and spaces such as highly trafficked retail stores and shopping malls require specialised technology to elevate the standard of recirculated air.

VIRUSKILLER™ by Radic8 is the world’s most awarded clean air technology, designed for critical and hygienically sensitive spaces. The technology is now made available for industries and spaces of all kinds, bringing uncompromising clean air performance to commercial and mainstream sectors throughout South Africa.

VIRUSKILLER™ not only filters the air like a conventional air purifier, but provides active, real-time decontamination of airborne viruses, bacteria, and mould for added protection against airborne infection. With a device suited to any indoor space — from large retail floors to small boutique stores, restrooms and offices — VIRUSKILLER™ provides fresh, clean air to customers and staff throughout the day. Simple plug-and-play operation means decontamination of indoor air is finally as easy — if not easier — than the cleaning of surfaces and sanitisation of shopping trolleys and baskets.

As retailers across the country continue to win back customers with increased safety measures and attention to indoor air safety, adopting clean air technology as an added safety measure in the long term that will help protect South African consumers against the harmful effects of indoor air pollution, and provides much needed reassurance that businesses are treating their indoor air with the utmost care. 

For more information about VIRUSKILLER™ clean air technology, visit or email