Healthcare

Antimicrobial Copper is the most effective antimicrobial touch surface
Antimicrobial copper surfaces in a hospital environment

Why Antimicrobial Copper?

Approximately four million people in the EU acquire a healthcare-associated infection each year, from which approximately 37,000 die.  Antimicrobial Copper kills the microbes that cause these infections.

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) place a significant socioeconomic burden on people in all regions of the world.  In the UK, 300,000 people acquire infections in hospitals each year, resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths. In addition to the immeasurable personal costs, the Office for National Statistics estimates the direct cost of HCAIs to be £1 billion  per year.

These infections, such as MRSA and C. difficile, are caused by microbes that thrive on objects we touch every day. Antibiotic-resistant organisms have spread from the healthcare environment to schools, homes and mass transit. Despite aggressive hand washing campaigns and routine cleaning, infection rates remain unacceptably high and more needs to be done to lower the risk of acquiring an infection and improve patient safety.

Now there is a new weapon in the fight against the microbes that cause these deadly infections: Antimicrobial Copper.

Copper and copper alloys are engineering materials that are durable, colourful, recyclable and widely available in various product forms suitable for a range of manufacturing purposes. They offer a suite of options for designers of functional, sustainable and cost-effective products. In addition to these well-known properties, copper and certain copper alloys have intrinsic antimicrobial properties (collectively called ‘Antimicrobial Copper’) and products made from these materials offer the secondary benefit of contributing to hygienic design.

With broad-spectrum and rapid efficacy, Antimicrobial Copper has been shown to kill pathogenic microbes in the laboratory and in the clinical environment, significantly and continuously reducing bacteria.  With recent clinical trial data showing key touch surfaces made from Antimicrobial Copper can reduce a patient's risk of acquiring a hospital infection, it has been shown that these antimicrobial products, as part of contemporary hospital architecture and design,  can improve infection prevention and control in hospitals.

It is important to note that products made from Antimicrobial Copper are a supplement to, not a substitute for standard infection control practices. It is essential that current hygiene practices are continued, including those related to the cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.

Antimicrobial Copper was the first touch surface material to have efficacy data independently verified through the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration, which supports the claim to continuously kill more than 99.9% of the bacteria that cause HCAIs within two hours of contact.

The supporting science has proven Antimicrobial Copper to be the most effective antimicrobial touch surface and has sparked a global campaign advocating the use of these materials to combat infectious microbes in healthcare facilities, mass transit, educational institutions and beyond.

Three main characteristics make Antimicrobial Copper the most effective touch surface material:

Continuously kills microbes

  • Efficacy as an antimicrobial is scientifically proven to be far more effective than silver-containing coatings
  • Proven to continuously kill the microbes that cause infections
  • The first solid antimicrobial touch surface approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Never wears out

  • Continuous and ongoing antimicrobial action
  • Remains effective even after repeated wet and dry abrasion and re-contamination
  • Natural oxidation does not impair efficacy.

Safe to use

  • Not harmful to people or the environment
  • Inherently antimicrobial, no chemicals added
  • Completely recyclable.

Antimicrobial Copper for HVAC

Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems are believed to be factors in over 60% of all sick building situations and can also benefit from Antimicrobial Copper components such as filters, cooling fins, drip pans and tubes which eliminate bacterial and fungal growths that typically thrive on damp internal surfaces. This can improve the system’s thermal and electrical efficiency as well as, potentially, the resultant air quality. Apart from commercial and public buildings, controlled air spaces such as operating theatres and food preparation areas may especially benefit.

Antimicrobial Copper for Food Processing

The incidence of foodborne infections and high spoilage rates suggests that current measures are not always effective in minimising contamination of the world’s food supplies. Hygienic surfaces, made with copper and copper alloys, can be used in foodprocessing facilities to help reduce the risk of cross-contamination of moulds and even dangerous foodborne pathogens.

Copper has an intrinsic ability to destroy these dangerous microbes quickly at both refrigeration temperature (4°C) and room temperature (20°C). Suggested applications include dry food contact surfaces (e.g. mixers, transfer chutes, conveyors and work tables) and touch surfaces (e.g. door furniture and taps).

Cu+  Stewardship Scheme

The Antimicrobial Copper brand and Cu+ mark are used by leading manufacturers of hospital equipment, furniture and fittings to indicate that their products are made from Antimicrobial Copper.

The use of the Antimicrobial Copper brand and Cu+ mark by an organisation indicates that a Copper Centre, on behalf of International Copper Association, Ltd, has granted permission to do so based upon adherence to strict usage rules. These rules guide that organisation’s understanding of the underlying technology and the way they promote, advise and deploy it in line with existing research, regulatory and legislative requirements.

Copper has an intrinsic ability to destroy these dangerous microbes quic
Related ResourcesHere are related resources.  To browse and search all resources, visit the Resource Library.
    Pub 215 - Stop the Spread of HCAIs - Factsheet
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, care homes, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, touch surface
    Deadly healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) are a major threat in European hospitals. Learn about an additional line of defence that goes further than hand washing - Antimicrobial Copper. 2013. 1pp.
    Pub 214 - Antimicrobial Copper Alloys: Guidance for Selection
    Healthcare
    alloys, antimicrobial, care homes, design, designer, hospital, property
    This publication offers designers, manufacturers and specifiers guidance on identifying the most appropriate copper alloy for a product. The guide features a table of commonly available alloys, representing the different copper-alloy families, listing compositions and properties and ordered by colour. 2013. 16pp.
Related News

Professor Bill Keevil demonstrates copper's powerful and rapid antimicrobial activity in his laboratory at the University of Southampton.
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The Cu+ mark signifies a product is made from an approved Antimicrobial Copper alloy, the most effective touch surface material, backed by science.

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