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Archive for December, 2009

Bringing Decades of Experience to Work at the CDA

December 30th, 2009 No comments

By Joe Gorsuch, Copper Development Association Manager of Health & Environmental Sciences

Joe Gorsuch works with environmental regulations and the collection of ecotox data.  For 30 years prior to joining the CDA in March, 2009, he worked with Kodak, conducting environmental effects and fate field and lab studies to register chemicals for the photographic industry.  From 2005 to 2009 he was President and Owner of Gorsuch Environmental Managements Services, Inc. [GEMS, Inc.] coordinating environmental studies.  He holds an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences, focusing on Aquatic Toxicology, both from Purdue University. 

Before I joined the CDA, I led the research program on silver at Kodak.  I was with the company for three decades and had amassed quite a body of work.  The experience and contacts I gained are invaluable, and I’m sure that was one of the reasons I was offered the position at the CDA.  Silver and copper aren’t the same programs, but the science is essentially identical and my background was a great fit. 

Joseph GorsuchThis past November, I was proud to receive the 2009 International Imaging Industry Association (I3A) Achievement Award (I3A is the leading global association and an accredited Standards Developing Organization for the imaging industry) for my work at Kodak and as an independent consultant in leading the 16-year silver environmental research program.  Here is a description of the award:

The I3A Achievement Award annually recognizes, encourages and celebrates outstanding accomplishment by an individual who has provided significant contributions to the advancement or growth of the imaging industry, through participation in I3A in either Standards and Initiatives or Advocacy.

It’s rewarding to know that my long career has led to others recognizing me.  I really feel great about it.  But I can’t take all the credit because of course I had colleagues helping me along the way.  Both at Kodak and the CDA, I’ve had the opportunity to work with world-class researchers and government regulatory people, and to build relationships based on mutual trust.  After leaving Kodak, there was kind of a void.  Although I was doing some exciting environmental consulting work, I wasn’t able to keep doing all the work I had been doing previously, in particular coordinating a major research program.  So I was very excited to get this opportunity with the CDA to bring my experience and knowledge to work on copper with some of the researchers I had collaborated with previously.  As I said earlier, the science is essentially identical.  But we’re now doing copper studies that I never had the occasion to do with silver, including marine studies that are far more advanced, in addition to marine sediment studies that I’m helping to coordinate, which is always exciting.  Anytime you get to be a pioneer, it’s exciting.

Categories: Architecture, Building, environment Tags:

Copper and the Environment (Part 2 of 2)

December 20th, 2009 No comments

By Joe Gorsuch, Copper Development Association Manager of Health & Environmental Sciences

Before joining the CDA, I spearheaded the silver program at Kodak, looking at the potential environmental impacts of silver and other metallic compounds.  That’s why, in March of ’09, it was a natural for me to join the CDA and focus on copper.  Our researchers provide a vital service.  We compile a great amount of scientific data on copper and its environmental effects and make it available to stakeholders all over the world.  We provide ecotoxicology data to the scientific community, including regulators, university scientists, and industries interested in its beneficial uses, such as iStock_000001060933XSmallfish farmers.  While copper is not a contaminant like mercury that accumulates in fish, it’s important to maintain levels most beneficial for their growth and development. Manufacturers of copper products often use our data in order to comply with environmental laws and regulations.  Through extensive research and using data on usage that covers centuries, we’ve developed a “copper roof runoff model toolkit” that allows building developers and regulators to establish responsible designs to manage the interaction of copper in general storm water runoff.

Our research data on copper effects on aquatic organisms allow sound science to be used in developing water quality regulations, protecting the environment from potential harm without being unnecessarily burdensome to the regulated community.  The CDA helps people in all industries and all fields of study to make these determinations.  If we all have good scientific information, we can use it to make responsible decisions that benefit our industries and our planet at the same time.

Categories: environment, Health & Science Tags:

Copper and the Environment (Part 1 of 2)

December 15th, 2009 No comments

Joe Gorsuch2By Joe Gorsuch, Copper Development Association Inc. Manager of Health & Environmental Sciences

Joe Gorsuch works with environmental regulations and the collection of ecotox data.  For 30 years prior to joining the CDA in March, 2009, he worked with Kodak, conducting environmental effects and fate field and lab studies to register chemicals for the photographic industry.  From 2005 to 2009 he was President and Owner of Gorsuch Environmental Managements Services, Inc. [GEMS, Inc.] coordinating environmental studies.  He holds an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences, focusing on Aquatic Toxicology, both from Purdue University. 

You hear a lot these days about harmful substances in our environment.  The field that evaluates the effects of chemical substances in the environment is called environmental toxicology (also called ecotoxicity or ecotox).  Toxicology is the study of the effects of a chemical or a contaminant on an organism, and the “eco” refers to the environment.  Some people assume that any copper in the environment is harmful, probably because of stories about mercury or some pesticides.  So when news gets out there without the proper understanding of the science, it can cause unnecessary alarm. 

iStock_000003704088XSmallCopper itself is not a contaminant.  In fact, it’s essential to many forms of life, like plants, animals and humans, but in certain amounts and in certain circumstances it can be potentially harmful.  That is generally true of everything: too much can be harmful. A good analogy is insulin and the human body.  Everyone needs insulin to function.  But for some people, the wrong amount of insulin can be dangerous.  So for those individuals it’s important to test and monitor insulin levels constantly to maintain optimum levels for health.  It’s the same with copper in the environment.  I coordinate studies that collect ecotox data for the CDA.  The world-class international researchers and I evaluate the bioavailability of copper (“bioavailability” refers to the ability of an organism to absorb it) to aquatic organisms in various environments in order to understand which concentrations under certain circumstances may be harmful and which are harmless.  The form of copper that is considered toxic to plants and aquatic animals is the copper ion, which in natural environments is generally bound to sulfide, chloride or organic matter, rendering it less toxic and less bioavailable.  So knowing the form of copper in the environment is critical when determining the risk it may pose to organisms.

In conducting and evaluating this research, the CDA works collaboratively with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  All the research findings, including the data that may not be viewed as beneficial to us, are summarized and published, and eventually become part of the public domain.  A finding that implies copper may be the cause of a problem is further studied to determine the facts and circumstances or mechanisms, and the results are published. As a father and grandfather, I’m concerned about preserving the environment and health of our ecosystem and community.  I enjoy knowing that my role at the CDA helps make a difference.

Categories: environment, Health & Science Tags:

Copper as an Antimicrobial – Clinical Trials (Part 3 of 3)

December 10th, 2009 No comments

By Harold Michels, Copper Development Association Senior Vice President of Technology and Technical Services

Harold Michels, PhD, senior vice president of technology and technical services for the Copper Development Association, spearheaded the effort to get EPA registration of copper alloys as an antimicrobial. The EPA registration became official in 2008. Clinical trials focusing on the ability of copper metals to kill deadly pathogens, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on touch surfaces are being carried out at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, both in Charleston, S.C. Dr. Michels gives an update.

Chair w-copper armsWe’re at a critical point in this project. We started using copper components in hospital rooms in late September 2009. Before that, our time was spent developing and approving protocols, measuring the amount of bacteria in the rooms and fabricating the copper components to be installed there. We hope to demonstrate – and I’m confident we will – a reduction in bioload on the copper vs. the non-copper surfaces. The doctors leading our clinical trials will also look at changes in infection rates in the next phase of the trials. Apparently no one ever demonstrated a reduction in infection rates as a consequence of a reduction in surface bioload. So this would be a first, but they feel the database should be robust enough to do it.

What we need now is to get the people who can make these components out of copper alloys to do it and believe it is a worthwhile business endeavor. We could use copper alloys for hospital beds, IV poles or even the mundane items, like rails along the hallway, chairs in the visitor waiting rooms, bathroom fixtures and elevator buttons. There’s also potential for a retrofit market, where we can substitute copper items for things like doorknobs, for example.

Copper_0012_Retouched copyWe have a public health registration. We can say we killed within two hours 99.9 % of the five bacteria we tested, including MRSA. To our knowledge it’s the only time they ever granted a public health registration to a solid or coating. So this is landmark. Our competitors don’t have this public health registration, but I’m sure they’re trying to get it.

If you manufacture copper alloys and would like to like to learn more about what we’re doing, you can contact me: hmichels@cda.copper.org. I especially want to hear from component makers. I’d like to talk to you about the unique antimicrobial properties of copper.

Categories: antimicrobial, Health & Science Tags:

Copper As An Antimicrobial – EPA Approval (Part 2 of 3)

December 7th, 2009 No comments

By Harold Michels, Copper Development Association Senior Vice President of Technology and Technical Services

Harold Michels, PhD, a CDA engineer and senior vice president, conducted research that led to the 2008 EPA registration of 275 copper alloys with public health claims. Here’s his story about how he got there.

People are always interested in the antimicrobial properties of copper when the concept is introduced. I’ve never talked to an infectious disease doctor who doubted what we were saying. They know copper kills organisms. But we needed to have data that was bullet proof. 

videopic6When I looked at that nurse’s study, I said “I wonder if this is really so and can we repeat it?” We ran the tests in the laboratory setting and indeed it worked against the bacteria, E.coli 0157:H7. Then we tested and found that the copper worked against the hospital infection MRSA, the virulent hospital super bug. I said, “Oh this is really interesting.” However, I didn’t just want to study something. If I can’t use the science, I’m not interested. I wanted to make things happen in the real world. If we could use copper alloys to kill harmful bacteria, it could provide help to fight the bacteria that cause hospital infections.

We began a four-year negotiation with the EPA. During our first meeting, they had a lot of requirements including the development of test protocols. So the next day I hired a regulatory consultant who we use to this day.

Then we went to the EPA Website and found the protocol that was testing sanitizers on a hard, chemically-impervious surface. So I said, “What if we are the surface and we add nothing to it?” We don’t expose the surface to a sanitizing liquid or gas. Can we alter this protocol? And we went back to the regulatory consultant who said that was a good idea. So that was our first test protocol, in 2005.

Then I went to the consultant and said, “Who can run this test?” We found only one lab that routinely conducted these tests and we’ve been working with them ever since. Two more test protocols also were required by the EPA. After we completed all three of the tests, the results were submitted. The EPA then indicated that they wanted to get opinions from the infectious disease community before they proceeded. It was nip and tuck for quite a while.  Whenever we had a problem, we figured out how to solve it.

Finally, on Feb. 29, 2008, the EPA registered 275 copper alloys. You can read the CDA Website for more details on what the registration involves. But basically our testing demonstrated effective antibacterial activity against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli 0157:H7. The registration also allows us to say copper alloy surfaces continuously reduce bacterial contamination, achieving 99.9% reduction within two hours of exposure. However, in order to be effective, the alloy surfaces can’t be coated in any way and must be free of dirt or other matter that can prevent contact with the surface. In addition, the alloy surfaces are a supplement and not a substitute for good hand hygiene and infection control practices.

So now we’re working on clinical trials and getting the word out to infectious disease specialists, hospital administrators, architects, component makers — you name it.

Categories: antimicrobial, Health & Science Tags:

Copper as an Antimicrobial – Getting Started (Part 1 of 3)

December 1st, 2009 No comments

Harold-2By Harold Michels, Copper Development Association Senior Vice President of Technology and Technical Services

On Feb. 29, 2008, the EPA registered 275 copper alloys with public health claims. Subsequently, that number has grown to 282. Under EPA guidelines, a public health claim relates to the control of organisms that pose a threat to human health. Dr. Harold Michels, PhD, senior vice president of technology and technical services for the Copper Development Association (CDA) was instrumental in making this happen. An engineer, Dr. Michels also has a PhD in materials science. He joined the CDA 10 years ago.

 The fundamental properties of copper, which I reviewed when I arrived at the CDA 10 years ago, included electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, the color of the material and its physical and mechanical properties. Then I came across another somewhat obscure property of copper. Its inherently antimicrobial response.

videopic3We’re trying to get decision-makers, including hospital administrators, infectious disease professionals and architects to recognize that copper can help in the fight against the bacteria that cause infections. People just don’t know about this. What’s really amazing is that ancient societies recognized that copper was antimicrobial before there was a germ theory. But the idea to study this came from a student nurse’s project that was published in a newsletter in 1983. They looked at brass and stainless steel doorknobs in a hospital and found little bacteria on the brass and lots of bacteria on the stainless steel. And then they actually put bacteria on the brass and stainless steel and observed the same thing.

So I repeated this work in the laboratory and under controlled circumstances so we could know exactly what would happen. This was in 2002. So we tested 24 copper alloys and they were all effective in killing the selected bacteria, E.coli 0157:H7. That was the beginning of this project.

Categories: antimicrobial, Health & Science Tags: