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NEW YORK -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the registration of antimicrobial copper alloys with public health claims. These public health claims acknowledge that copper, brass and bronze are capable of killing harmful, potentially deadly bacteria. Copper is the first solid surface material to receive this type of EPA registration, which is supported by extensive antimicrobial efficacy testing.
The EPA registration is based on independent laboratory testing using EPA-prescribed protocols that demonstrate the metals' ability to kill specific disease-causing bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is one of the most virulent strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a common cause of hospital- and community-acquired infections.
Testing under EPA-approved protocols demonstrates that copper, brasses and bronzes are effective against a number of disease-causing bacteria. For example, one study shows that on copper alloy surfaces, greater than 99.9 percent of MRSA "superbugs" are killed within two hours at room temperature.
The following statements are included in the registration: "When cleaned regularly, antimicrobial copper alloys surfaces kill greater than 99.9 percent of (specific) bacteria within two hours, and continue to kill more than 99 percent of (these) bacteria even after repeated contamination," and, "The use of a copper alloy surface is a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control practices; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices, including those practices related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces. The copper alloy surface material has been shown to reduce microbial contamination, but it does not necessarily prevent cross contamination."
Widely publicized statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate infections acquired in U.S. hospitals affect 2 million individuals every year and result in nearly 100,000 deaths annually. The use of copper alloys for frequently touched surfaces, as a supplement to existing CDC-prescribed handwashing and disinfection regimens, has far-reaching implications. Potential uses, that include door and furniture hardware, bed rails, intravenous (IV) stands, dispensers, faucets, sinks and work stations, can help reduce the amount of disease-causing bacteria in patient rooms.
Unlike coatings or other materials treatments, the antibacterial efficacy of copper metals won't wear away: they can offer solid, long-term protection. Discussions are ongoing with major hospital equipment manufacturers about the development of appropriate copper-based products.
Source: Copper Development Association