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Antimicrobial Research Excites Infectious Disease Conference Participants (Part 1 of 2)

April 22nd, 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, which manages the Public Health Initiative. Wilton, Harold Michels, the CDA’s Senior Vice President of Technology and Technical Services, and other members of the team last month attended the Fifth Decennial International Conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections in Atlanta. The CDA spearheaded the effort to get EPA registration of copper alloys as antimicrobial public health products in 2008. The CDA presented findings from the second phase of a clinical trial at the conference.

Attending this conference has been one of the goals of the CDA. It’s a conference that happens once every 10 years and infectious disease experts from all over come to the meeting. There were many important people to reach and we had a story to tell. Two things were happening. We were presenting the results of the second phase of our clinical trials and we had a booth in the exhibit area that allowed us to talk to people about what we were doing and to show our new brand – Antimicrobial Copper.  

ICAtm_txt_cmyk_CoatedThe results from the second phase of the hospital trials were presented by the clinical research team in a poster session. They attracted a lot of attention. Many of the people that saw the poster subsequently visited the booth to see Antimicrobial Copper components. Many provided us with their contact information and asked to be updated on the progress of the program. People would ask us about antimicrobial copper surfaces and how they were made – if there was a coating or something applied to the surfaces. We explained that the metals are intrinsically antimicrobial. They were curious and wanted to know more. Our goal was to create awareness and from that perspective our booth was a big success. We were busy throughout the convention talking to people and explaining what Antimicrobial Copper has to offer.

We also had questions about what type of organisms copper can kill. Companies that make infection control products also wanted information from us. This also gave us an opportunity to debunk some of the misconceptions about copper. People were concerned about the cost of copper and how they might incorporate it into their products. We were able to tell them that copper alloys have very good fabrication properties and are very easy to work with, so the fabrication process is much less energy intensive than for many other metals, including steels.  They may pay a little bit more for the materials, but they also have a product with an added value. We also explained that the cost of materials is only a small fraction of the final cost of a product. We want potential customers to know that working with copper is not prohibitively expensive.

At times, we were overwhelmed by the number of visitors at our booth. The conference was an incredible experience and it tells us our work is important and infectious disease specialists are excited about the potential of antimicrobial copper once they learn about it. Our hope is to inspire people to see what copper alloys can do and how they can benefit from what we’re doing.

Categories: antimicrobial, Health & Science Tags:

Winter Meeting: Bringing the Antimicrobial Message to Market

February 4th, 2010 No comments
Adam Estelle, guest blogger

Adam Estelle, guest blogger

By Adam Estelle, Copper Development Association, Inc. Project Engineer, Materials Science

Adam Estelle received his bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Arizona.  He joined the CDA in August of 2008 and works primarily on the Public Health Initiative promoting the antimicrobial properties of copper-based metals. 

Of all the exciting opportunities I’ve had with the Copper Development Association (CDA), the Annual Meeting is by far the most intriguing.  Industry giants from across the country gather every December to learn about emerging markets and get the latest news on copper’s role in applications ranging from plumbing to architecture to antimicrobial.  It’s quite inspiring to witness an industry come together as a whole and combine insight and experience to overcome collective challenges.

General 2During December’s meeting, I presented new opportunities brought about by the EPA registration of copper as an antimicrobial and summarized CDA activity in the supply chain.  Ever since the EPA registered copper as an antimicrobial, we’ve been working with members to:

  • strengthen awareness of the antimicrobial effort
  • provide information about the science behind the EPA registration
  • assist with new product development
  • bring copper products to market with health claims

Once product manufacturers understand the science behind the antimicrobial message, and the large socioeconomic burden of healthcare-associated infections, they see the potential for copper touch surfaces used in products like door knobs, work stations, hand rails and IV poles.  CDA then points them to our membership to help find a supplier of antimicrobial copper.  As the process evolves, more and more suppliers will register with the EPA so they can market their products with public health claims.  As stewards of the EPA registration, CDA also helps product manufacturers convey the antimicrobial message accurately and responsibly. 

From scientific studies to marketing support, CDA is proactive throughout every step of the exciting process.  The Winter Meeting was a great opportunity to show our membership how we’re helping the pieces come together.  Since December, we’ve received more and more phone calls and emails from fabricators and manufacturers who want to move to the next level. That’s great news, because it will generate business for CDA members and help foster this young market.

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.

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: