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Archive for January, 2010

Health Care’s Latest Weapon Against MRSA

January 12th, 2010 No comments

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.

copperpushplateFor 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.

Copper, Health Claims and the U.S. EPA Approval Process

January 4th, 2010 No comments

Wilton MoranBy 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.

When I joined the CDA I pretty much concentrated on the antimicrobial copper project. The EPA’s registration of copper, brass and bronze as antimicrobial materials with public health claims was a breakthrough not only for our industry, but for a variety of industries, especially health care.  But the approval was hardly an overnight process. 

iStock_000005651839XSmallOne of the things my team is currently doing is helping copper and copper alloy fabricators and manufacturers of end-use products legally market antimicrobial copper products with public health claims. The EPA is not in the business of helping companies get products to market. They exist to help ensure there’s sound science behind products that make health claims.  The fact that copper and its alloys are solid presented a unique issue for them.  The office within EPA that we are dealing with usually registers other forms of antimicrobial substances, like liquids, gases and powders, but applying the rules to solid materials was a different matter, so a lot of uncharted territory had to be covered. They’re also used to approving a specific amount of an active ingredient, but we registered a range of alloys with 60-99.9% copper.  Our experts worked with the EPA throughout the process, asking questions and helping find precedents for different aspects of our situation.  As a lot of people now know, the process was completed early in 2008 with five EPA registrations for copper and copper alloys. 

There’s nothing more powerful than EPA registration for giving your product credibility. It is also illegal to make public claims without EPA registration.  Six alloy fabricators have already obtained EPA registrations:  PMX Industries, Cerro Flow Products, Revere Copper Products, Brush Wellman, Chase Brass and Copper Company, and Olin Brass.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing more very soon.