Copper alloys for hospital surfaces and fixtures proven to eliminate potentially deadly pathogens
March 25, 2008 – New York
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the registration of naturally antimicrobial copper alloys as a supplement to standard preventative measures in eliminating specific disease-causing bacteria. Despite the prevalence of infection-control measures, such as antimicrobial soaps, sanitizer gels, chemicals, and disinfectants, contaminated surface areas can still cause the spread of infection at an alarming rate. Independent laboratory tests have confirmed that copper alloys eliminate more than 99.9 percent of bacterial contamination within two hours of exposure. Copper, brass and bronze products have proved to be particularly effective against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
“This is an exciting breakthrough for the copper industry, as a whole,” says Warren Bartel, Senior Vice-President and Senior Advisor for Luvata Group.” As a leading international metals supplier of copper components and solutions, we see ourselves playing a key role in providing our customers with the materials they will need to take advantage of the antimicrobial qualities of copper alloys. When considering the cost of preventative measures or treatment for these diseases, copper may likely become the low cost, environmentally friendly solution. Now that the EPA has granted copper official status as an antimicrobial agent in the U.S., we have only scratched the surface of possible copper applications directly targeted at improving public health.”
Studies show that simply cleaning surface areas does not eliminate all bacteria. Copper alloys, however, continually eliminate bacteria and, unlike surface coatings or additives, the intrinsic antimicrobial properties of copper alloys cannot wear off or be removed. Homogeneous and solid copper alloys therefore provide a lifetime of efficacy and durability. Copper alloys are the first and only commercially available solid-surface material with EPA public health registration, allowing manufacturers to claim antimicrobial efficacy.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that ‘superbugs’, such as MRSA, continue to be a growing societal problem, with hospital-acquired infections affecting nearly two million people and causing approximately 100,000 deaths each year. According to Bartel: “Copper alloys used for various touch surfaces, including door handles, bedrails, and bathroom surfaces, in combination with current infection-control practices, can help reduce this number. Potential applications include various touch surfaces in hospitals, offices, food-processing and pharmaceutical-processing facilities.”
The registration, which permits the marketing of antimicrobial copper alloy products with public health claims, was granted to the Copper Development Association (CDA) based on tests conducted at a laboratory working under EPA-approved Good Laboratory Practices (GLP). Using 3,000 copper alloy samples of copper, cartridge brass, phosphor bronze, copper nickel and, nickel silver, the EPA tested each sample’s efficacy as a sanitizer, its residual self-sanitizing activity, and its continuous reduction of bacterial contaminants. The EPA confirmed efficacy of all three-test protocols against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Formerly known as Outokumpu Copper Products and acquired from Outokumpu OYJ by Nordic Capital in 2005, Luvata is a major international supplier of solutions, services, components and materials for manufacturing and construction. Luvata’s solutions are used in industries such as power generation, renewable energy, telecommunications, architecture, automotive, medicine, air-conditioning, refrigeration, and a wide range of consumer products. The company’s continued success is attributed to its longevity, its technological excellence and strategy of integrating with its customers’ businesses. Employing over 8,500 staff in 18 countries, Luvata works in partnership with customers such as Siemens, Toyota, CERN, Shaaz, and DWD International.