What Antimicrobial Copper Means For Healthcare Facilities

September 15, 2010


21st century science catches up with antiquity

NEW YORK, NY-Long before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered copper as an antimicrobial, many ancient cultures used it to fight infection. Ancient Egyptians used copper to keep drinking water clean, the fifth century B.C. Greek doctor Hippocrates used it to treat skin irritations and open wounds, and the Aztecs used it for sore throats. Modern scientific methods have now been used to prove what has been known for millennia: copper and its alloys, brass and bronze, inhibit or kill disease-causing pathogens, including vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and E. coli O157:H7.

Independent laboratory tests prove that copper, brass and bronze kill 99.9 percent of bacteria within two hours.* In addition, clinical trials in three U.S. hospitals are examining the extent to which copper surfaces on frequently touched objects, such as bed rails, overbed tray tables, visitor chairs and nurse call buttons, can reduce the amount of bacteria harbored on those objects.

As the only solid surface materials to have received EPA registration as a "public health" antimicrobial that kills bacteria that cause infection, copper, brass and bronze surfaces are additional tools that can now be used in designing against the proliferation of these bacteria. Reducing contamination on healthcare surfaces can be a key tool in helping to lower the incidence of healthcare associated infections.

Copper has long been a popular architectural and design material because it is durable, available, and suitable for many applications. Now, more than 280 copper alloys spanning a wide range of colors and surface textures are EPA registered as antimicrobial, giving architects, specifiers and designers a broad variety of design options with which to work.

*When cleaned regularly and as a supplement to routine cleaning and disinfection programs. These findings led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to register these materials as public health antimicrobial products that can control vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7

For additional information, including the design guide "Working with Copper Alloys," visit www.antimicrobialcopper.com.