By Wilton Moran, Copper Development Association Project Engineer, Material Sciences
Wilton Moran is a member of CDA’s Technical Services Team, providing direct technical support to copper alloy end-users, and managing critical copper and copper alloy data and property information. The team also manages other CDA programs, including the Public Health Initiative, which encompasses the registration of copper alloys with the EPA, and other projects that don’t fall under traditional product areas.
For years infection control programs in hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, doctors’ offices and ambulances have employed two main methods to kill bacteria in the environment and reduce their transmission: hand washing and regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. Now that the Environmental Protection Agency has registered copper and its alloys as antimicrobial touch surfaces, copper has emerged as a strong third weapon to supplement these two traditional infection control practices.
Many hospital-acquired infections are the result of the transfer of pathogens. The pathogens can be acquired from frequently-touched surfaces as well as from the patients themselves. Currently, most hospital touch surfaces are made of stainless steel, aluminum, wood, or plastic, which have no inherent effect in controlling pathogens. Hand washing and regular surface cleaning are essential, but the addition of touch surfaces that are inherently antimicrobial would make these practices even more effective. Enter antimicrobial copper alloy surfaces. Think of copper bed rails, door handles, IV poles and more. In short, if the bacteria* are killed before they get a chance to build up and grow on the surface, there will be less available. Copper surfaces must be cleaned like any other surfaces, but their use can substantially improve infection control efforts.
The EPA regulates sanitizers and disinfectants being used in homes, schools, medical facilities, etc. Just as those products are first tested in the lab, copper has been similarly tested and proven effective*.Copper surfaces should be used to supplement these products, not as a replacement, by killing bacteria* between routine cleaning and disinfection.* Testing demonstrates effective antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.