BY JACK DINI – Not many people know that without copper the human body cannot survive. Now copper is providing another benefit: it kills a number of microorganisms including MRSA, the notorious hospital-acquired infection that can cause skin, bone and life-threatening infections, as well as pneumonia.
This is quite significant, especially when confronted with the fact that more people in the US now die from MRSA than from AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2005 MRSA was responsible for an estimated 94,000 life-threatening infections and 18, 659 deaths. The same year roughly 16,000 people in the US died from AIDS. (1)
There are other hospital-acquired infections. Overall, every year approximately 100,000 people in the US die from an infection they receive while being treated in a medical facility. In fact, infections represent the fourth leading cause of death in the US—behind only heart disease, cancer and strokes. With microbes growing more resistant to antibiotics and so-called ‘superbugs’ emerging there’s growing concern about keeping patients safe. (2)
Besides MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, the list that copper and copper-alloy surfaces destroy includes E. coli 0157:H7, Clostridium difficile, influenza A virus, adenovirus, and fungi.
Some 355 copper alloys have been proven to kill more than 99% of disease-causing bacteria within just two hours when cleaned regularly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the registrations of these copper alloys as ‘antimicrobial materials with public health benefits,’ which allows manufacturers to legally make claims about the positive public health benefits of products made with registered antimicrobial copper alloys. In addition, the EPA has approved a long list of antimicrobial products made from these alloys, such as handrails, bedrails, over-bed tables, sinks, faucets, door knobs, toilet hardware, computer keyboards, health club equipment, shopping cart handles, etc. Copper doorknobs are used by hospitals to reduce the transfer of disease, and Legionnaires’ disease is suppressed by copper tubing in plumbing systems. (3)
Three hospitals, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and two in Charleston, South Carolina, Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, that replaced many commonly touched items in hospital rooms saw a 40 percent reduction in infections acquired in the hospitals. Those items included tray tables, call buttons, IV poles, and bed rails. (4)
In healthcare facilities around the world, 7 million infections occur every year. In addition these infections cost over $80 billion globally according to the World Health Organization. (5)
Independent laboratory testing has demonstrated that, when cleaned regularly, antimicrobial copper products kill greater than 99.9% of microorganisms. (5) On a dry copper surface, one study reported that 10 million E. coli bacteria are eliminated within 10 minutes. One a wet copper surface one could expect a total kill within around 45 minutes. (2) So, the next time you’re in a hospital, if you see a lot of copper, rest assured your chances of getting an infection have been minimized.
- “More US deaths from MRSA than AIDS,” webmd.com, October 16, 2007
- Samuel Greengard, “Antimicrobial copper may cut hospital infection rates,” Healthy Outlook Blog, October 26, 2011
- Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon, (New York, Little, Brown & Company, 2010), 168
- Jane Stevens, “Copper surfaces reduce hospital infections by 40 percent,” Health Beat, July 5, 2011
- “Research proves antimicrobial copper reduces the risk of infections by more than 40%,” Medical University of South Carolina, July 1, 2011