Health Benefits of Copper Alloys in our Healthcare Systems and Beyond
health benefits of copper;
More important now than ever
February 28, 2020
BLOG UPDATE: We wrote this article before the human coronavirus 229E became what it is today. Combating post-covid19 uncertainty in the workplace and beyond is a challenge we must be prepared to meet. It’s our responsibility to keep our employees safe and healthy upon their return to work and adapting touch surfaces like handrails and door pulls will be one of the main obstacles to consider. Continue reading to learn about the antimicrobial benefits of copper and then click here to learn more about our copper sleeve and zero contact key solutions. When it’s time to go back to work, let’s be ready.
The (very) bad news? A study for the Center of Disease Control & Prevention estimated that infections acquired in US hospitals affect two million people each year and are responsible for close to 100,000 deaths annually. Read that sentence again.
Ready for the good news? Using copper alloys—like bronze and brass—for touch surfaces such as railings could decrease these numbers dramatically.
Let’s break it down.
Harmful bacteria and fungi are transferred to touch surfaces such as railings and can persist for as long as 30 days, transferring to whatever touches them (i.e. you—holding the railing while walking up hospital stairs to visit a loved one). And in stainless-steel and aluminum touch surfaces, these bacteria can remain undisturbed, even after cleaning. Fortunately, coppers unique antimicrobial (an agent that kills microorganisms or stops their growth) properties allow it to kill microbes on touch, preventing the spread of these harmful bacteria. In short, copper alloys can kill microbes with extraordinary efficiency, often within a few hours or less.
Let’s get scientific.
Copper and its alloys (bronze and brass) kill microbes by releasing copper ions. Once a microbe transfers to the copper surface, the copper ion will attack the microbe, punching holes in the bacterial membrane, preventing cell respiration, and destroying the DNA and RNA inside the microbe. Destroying cell DNA prevents mutation, meaning the microbe cannot develop resistance to the copper.
Thus, when used on touch surfaces such as handrails, copper alloys are shown to reduce the number of live bacteria on their surfaces by 90%. Research also shows that copper touch surfaces in healthcare facilities can reduce disease transmission and patient infections in ICU by as much as 58%.
So why isn’t copper used more in the healthcare system today? Partly because the science surrounding coppers antimicrobial properties is still ongoing and not particularly widespread.
Additionally, cost is a factor, as fabricating and installing copper and brass/bronze railings is perceived as more expensive than alternatives—particularly hand sanitizer dispensers and similar practices. This leaves room for a question of ethics, of course. Aren’t the benefits of copper surfaces worth its price tag? This also leaves us contemplating the benefits of copper surfaces throughout all public facilities, not just hospitals.
Some countries, such as France, are already on-board and benefiting from the installation of copper touch surfaces in their hospitals. It’s our hope that the benefits of this incredible element become recognized worldwide and finds its way into the hearts of the build industry.
Installing bronze/brass handrails on your next healthcare project could have a profound positive impact on the health of patients and staff. Consider how your company could be part of shaping the future of healthcare practices and beyond!
To dive further into the antimicrobial efficacy of copper, read this study conducted by The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.
(sin-er-jee) n.: Creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts.