Friday, 11 December 2009

Use of copper fittings to reduce microbial contamination

The environment we live in direct contact with is thought to be a major 'store' for infection. Surfaces we touch can easily provide a route for cross-infection from patient to patient in hospitals.

Examples of surfaces that can carry infection include taps, toilet flush handles, toilet seats, door handles and so on. Traditionally these are made from metal and usually from stainless steel as this has been seen as providing a very easy to clean surface which get frequent disinfection via wiping with a disinfectant.

This study carried out at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, UK showed that replacing door handles, toilet seats and taps with copper fittings markedly reduced the microbial contamination of those surfaces.
The copper has been shown to be toxic to many microbes including Aspergillus and other fungi, preventing growth and killing any fungi or bacteria that land on them without the need for additional antiseptic fluids.

The implications of this finding go beyond touchable surfaces as it is known that mould growing within poorly maintained air conditioning units can be a major problem. Perhaps components like these could be made out of copper or coated in copper as a precaution?
Perhaps sink traps and other fittings used in hospitals should be made out of copper instead of plastic?

1 comment:

Phil said...

Brass is a copper/zinc alloy, and was used for years in US government (specifically Navy) piping.

Zinc is also toxic to fungi.

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