Why isn't copper used for surfaces in hospitals?

  • Thread starter boyband
  • Start date
  • #1
17
1
Summary:
copper kills viruses and mircorobes
If copper kills corona how come we've not spend money on putting it in hospital's etc ? How effective is it would silver be more effective?Our a combination of the both copper disc and a silver disc ?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
berkeman
Mentor
60,847
11,235
Summary:: copper kills viruses and mircorobes

If copper kills corona how come we've not spend money on putting it in hospital's etc ? How effective is it would silver be more effective?Our a combination of the both copper disc and a silver disc ?
In hospitals we spend a lot of time and effort to disinfect surfaces (with disinfectant wipedowns and UV robots and other methods). And the staff "foam in and foam out" of all rooms and areas to help to minimize any transmission of virus/bacteria between rooms and areas of the hospital. Changing the surfaces to much more expensive materials probably would have minimal impact on disease transmission in places where folks are so diligent about disinfection already. :wink:
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes pinball1970 and BillTre
  • #3
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2020 Award
1,896
5,187
Copper will corrode over time unless maintained (costs $ and labor).
The corroded product will probably not be so active at killing stuff.

Stainless steel, the common metal alternative for some surfaces, requires way less maintenance.
 
  • Like
Likes davenn, Lren Zvsm, pinball1970 and 3 others
  • #4
17
1
Copper will corrode over time unless maintained (costs $ and labor).
The corroded product will probably not be so active at killing stuff.

Stainless steel, the common metal alternative for some surfaces, requires way less maintenance.
How long does it take to corrode and what maintenance does it need?
 
  • #8
17
1
In hospitals we spend a lot of time and effort to disinfect surfaces (with disinfectant wipedowns and UV robots and other methods). And the staff "foam in and foam out" of all rooms and areas to help to minimize any transmission of virus/bacteria between rooms and areas of the hospital. Changing the surfaces to much more expensive materials probably would have minimal impact on disease transmission in places where folks are so diligent about disinfection already. :wink:
couldn't it used in area's where diligence is low to keep viruses under control ?
 
  • #9
berkeman
Mentor
60,847
11,235
couldn't it used in area's where diligence is low to keep viruses under control ?
Low diligence is not allowed in quality hospitals. That would get the patients very sick and get the medical folks who are responsible fired.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes undefined314, Vanadium 50, Keith_McClary and 1 other person
  • #10
berkeman
Mentor
60,847
11,235
What about in area's(not hospital's) where there is no or little diligence ?
couldn't it used in area's where diligence is low to keep viruses under control ?
Maybe you are referring to areas in the third world or other economically disadvantaged areas? Could you please list some of the areas that you are thinking of? Thanks.

One of the main situations that I work and train is in areas of "austere medicine", like in areas that have suffered disasters and do not have their normal medical infrastructure intact. We often run out of supplies and have to innovate and re-use supplies, and normal disinfection protocols are challenged. It's similar to what almost has happened with PPE shortages in Emergency Departments and in EMS in the field with the pandemic.

But the solution that you are proposing is not practical, IMO, since it is expensive to install and maintain (the maintenance protocol needed to keep the copper surfaces clean is probably close to the level of the normal disinfection protocols that we already follow).

It's good to ask questions like this, but it would probably help you to volunteer at some emergency medical facilities where you live so that you start to get an appreciation for the protocols that we have in place, and how sincere and careful we are in following them (even in the rain, in the middle of the night, in a tent, with a bloody patient in your hands)...
 
Last edited:
  • Like
  • Informative
Likes BillTre, hutchphd and Keith_McClary
  • #11
17
1
Maybe you are referring to areas in the third world or other economically disadvantaged areas? Could you please list some of the areas that you are thinking of? Thanks.

One of the main situations that I work and train is in areas of "austere medicine", like in areas that have suffered disasters and do not have their normal medical infrastructure intact. We often run out of supplies and have to innovate and re-use supplies, and normal disinfection protocols are challenged. It's similar to what almost has happened with PPE shortages in Emergency Departments and in EMS in the field with the pandemic.

But the solution that you are proposing is not practical, IMO, since it is expensive to install and maintain (the maintenance protocol needed to keep the copper surfaces clean is probably close to the level of the normal disinfection protocols that we already follow).

It's good to ask questions like this, but it would probably help you to volunteer at some emergency medical facilities where you live so that you start to get an appreciation for the protocols that we have in place, and how sincere and careful we are in following them (even in the rain, in the middle of the night, in a tent, with a bloody patient in your hands)...
I work in an industry where I think this could help just wondered how effect it would be? I completely understand the hospital scenario was wrong. How would it work with cash based business ?
 
  • #12
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
27,661
11,881
How will this help? If the labor needed to maintain copper in hospitals is comparable to the labor required to disinfect, why do you think it will require less effort in a retail store? And if it's less effort to disinfect, why not do just that - do something more effective than copper?
 
  • #13
gmax137
Science Advisor
2,018
1,404
Copper-bearing paint used to be popular for painting the bottom of boats because the copper inhibits growth of marine organisms (barnacles etc.). AFAIK, the copper paint is banned now for environmental reasons.

How about the copper water pipe in domestic plumbing? I don't know if that came to popularity because it keeps the water sanitary or if it was ease of installation. Maybe both?
 
  • #14
DaveE
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,886
1,524
Cost.

As @BillTre said, Copper alone isn't environmentally stable. So you may need a better alloy, BeCu comes to mind (from my electronics world), but that is way too expensive to cover every surface with. There are hospitals that are experimenting with these solutions for high touch surfaces, like bed rails.

Plus, prior to now, lack of knowledge. Big institutions and complex facilities are hard to change quickly.

If you want to know more, I would highly recommend listening to this podcast:

https://www.microbe.tv/twim/55-in-the-copper-room/

They also have links to some good papers on the subject.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
  • Informative
Likes BillTre, berkeman and Lnewqban
  • #15
DaveC426913
Gold Member
20,073
3,365
BTW, copper is also malleable and easily marked. It would not take long before it got so many scratches in it that it couldn't effectively be cleaned - and then it would become a liability rather than an asset.
 
  • Like
Likes Laroxe, berkeman and Lnewqban
  • #16
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2020 Award
1,896
5,187
Where I live (in Eugene, Oregon) copper pipes are preferred over galvanized because their insides don't rust out (which the pipes in my house are doing). The inside of the copper pipes get a thin layer of chemicals, but then don't seem to be much more effected.
 
  • #17
2,054
1,402
Summary:: copper kills viruses and mircorobes

How effective is it would silver be more effective?
Copper and silver both has very 'mild' anti-bacterial (anti-viral) properties: compared to any real disinfectants, they are just not effective and fast enough. The reason why they got their fame is that they looks nice and are so weak that they could be used without much restrain => doorknobs an cutlery.

At the beginning of XX. century silver was still considered a possibly useful antibiotics in medicine, but it could not hold a candle to real antibiotics invented not much later so it just vanished (later it was re-invented in alternative medicine).

By the way, copper is poisonous. In theory, silver is poisonous too - it is just silver poisoning is actually more stupid than dangerous.
 
  • #18
256bits
Gold Member
3,527
1,533
The corroded product will probably not be so active at killing stuff.
Copper and silver both has very 'mild' anti-bacterial (anti-viral) properties: compared to any real disinfectants,

A study on metal surfaces - stainless steel, pure copper, and a few alloys
https://aem.asm.org/content/81/3/1085 ( 2014 )
A previous study in our laboratory observed that dry copper and copper alloy surfaces rapidly inactivated MNV-1 and destroyed the viral genome. In this new study, we have observed that a relatively small change in the percentage of copper, between 70 and 80% in copper nickels and 60 and 70% in brasses, had a significant influence on the ability of the alloy to inactivate norovirus ..... We have previously shown with a small range of copper alloys the rapid destruction of murine norovirus (MNV), a close surrogate for the human norovirus causing gastrointestinal disease, which is necessary because of the lack of a suitable infectivity assay for the human norovirus

Norovirus had the ability such that most cleaning agents are ineffective against it, and can be viable for up to weeks a wide range of common surfaces.

Depending upon the copper alloy it would seem, and the corrosive species.
After 30 minute contact, a surface of pure copper was effective in destruction , with "efficacy of these brasses in inactivating norovirus is directly proportional to the copper content".


F4.medium.gif


FIG 4
Persistence of MNV infectivity on brasses. Approximately 5 × 105 PFU of infectious virus was applied to 1-cm2 samples of test surfaces and incubated at room temperature. At various time points, virus was removed from the surfaces and assessed for infectious virus by plaque assay as described in the text. The efficacy of these brasses in inactivating norovirus is directly proportional to the copper content; 100% Zn appeared to have some antiviral activity, similar to that of Muntz metal (C28000). The possible antiviral effect of zinc is discussed in the text.

The appearances of these alloys are very different: C72500 is very shiny and polished compared to the dull alloy C70600. This may be due to a passivating oxide layer, which may contribute to efficacy (this alloy is employed in marine engineering because of excellent antifouling properties). Hans et al. (24) reported that a layer of cuprous oxide (Cu2O) was as effective at killing Enterococcus hirae as pure copper but found that copper II oxide, CuO, is inhibitory by forming a protective layer that reduces the rate of corrosion (passivation layer). We observed that if the surfaces of alloys C70600 and C72500 were abraded by rubbing with coarse sandpaper (Fig. 3A), the efficacy of the former to inactivate MNV-1 was reduced following 30 min of contact at room temperature (Fig. 3B). This suggests that the presence of an oxide layer on this alloy contributes to its antiviral efficacy.
Note: I find it difficult to correlate this prose with the suggested figure 3B, regarding ally C72500. ie CuO and Cu2O corrosion, abrasion of the surface, and efficacy of the metal surface.

Although the reference 24 Abstract does suggest that the oxide Cu2O, that forms under normal conditions is as effective as a pure copper surface, with a CuO surface not as effective as either.
CuO was found to significantly inhibit contact killing, compared to pure copper. In contrast, thermally generated Cu2O was essentially as effective in contact killing as pure copper. Copper ion release from the different surfaces roughly correlated with their antibacterial efficacy and was highest for pure copper, followed by Cu2O and CuO. Tris-Cl induced a 10-50-fold faster copper ion release compared to PBS. Since the Cu2O that primarily forms on copper under ambient conditions is as active in contact killing as pure copper, antimicrobial objects will retain their antimicrobial properties even after oxide formation
 
  • #20
2,054
1,402
After 30 minute contact...
As far as I know for hospital grade disinfectants the required 'kill time' typically measured in seconds, but at (very) few minutes at most and any surface where the stuff is applicable included.

30 minutes to kill, and you can touch it with bare hands? That's what 'mild' means.
 
  • #21
The Japanese company PHCbi sells tissue culture incubators that are lined with a stainless steel enriched with copper that they claim combines the easy maintenance of stainless steel with the germicidal properties of copper. I imagine that the material is too expensive, however, to put all over the place in a hospital.
 
  • #22
cmb
1,106
117
Contributors here might be forgetting that copper and brass door handles and rails were de riguere in Victorian hospitals, and have been the MOST COMMON hospital fixtures when considering the overall history of such institutions.

Chrome looked better and took less time for the cleaners to 'smear the germs around' on before they 'looked clean'.

Chrome is a fad, by comparisons with over a century or two of brass-handled history before the advent of cheap chrome alloys in the 60's.

It was also common to disinfect the air with anti-microbial agents, originally carbolic acid courtesy of Joseph Lister who came up with the, obviously mad, idea to keep hospitals clean and disinfected. These days it seems even too much effort for nurses when you ask them to turn on the ventilation fans/AC, or "I don't know how to turn it on" or "It's been broken for 10 years" (I am talking NHS/UK hospitals here.)

It is also completely disgusting that nurses and health professionals come to work in their work clothes and go home in them. In Central European hospitals, pre-Velvet revolution and for some considerable time after (I spend time in Slovakia and Czech) it was the norm to arrive at work, change into hospital-cleaned-and-provided clothing, and to wear disposable head and shoe coverings (even though the shoes were also provided and kept clean by the hospital). Nowadays, people just turn up wearing any old dirty shoes, no-one knows where they have been and no-one seems to care and get offended if you ask.

I think a lot of commonly 'known' hygienic practices have been forgotten. 200 years of brass handles and people now seem to think they are quaint and unimportant. I will do my best to keep out of hospitals, and we have actually taken our kids from the UK (free NHS) and had (paid for) surgery done in Czech where they still seem to understand these sorts of basics.
 
  • #23
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2020 Award
1,896
5,187
It was also common to disinfect the air with anti-microbial agents, originally carbolic acid courtesy of Joseph Lister who came up with the, obviously mad, idea to keep hospitals clean and disinfected. These days it seems even too much effort for nurses when you ask them to turn on the ventilation fans/AC, or "I don't know how to turn it on" or "It's been broken for 10 years" (I am talking NHS/UK hospitals here.)
In a well run building, this would not happen. There should be someone like a building manager who knnows about these things.

In addition, it is quite possible to design and produce hospital like rooms that can be easily sterilized by vaporized hydrogen peroxide. Its done for BL-4 rooms (lab rooms for working with pathogens) as well as less stringent applications. It just takes planing ahead when building, and money, which I guess not all hospital situations can afford this.
 
  • #24
2,054
1,402
Chrome looked better and took less time for the cleaners to 'smear the germs around' on before they 'looked clean'.
The real reason was more about regulations and money. Copper alone never was adequate. The new disinfectants were expected to be able to do the job without copper. So why spend money on copper?

It is a relative new thing to expect slip-ups in cleaning. Copper can help to cover that up - but it is still just help, and not a solution. If cleaning is done good, then copper still not needed.
 
  • #25
berkeman
Mentor
60,847
11,235
The Japanese company PHCbi sells tissue culture incubators that are lined with a stainless steel enriched with copper that they claim combines the easy maintenance of stainless steel with the germicidal properties of copper. I imagine that the material is too expensive, however, to put all over the place in a hospital.
Link to a peer-reviewed medical journal article supporting this please? "They claim" does not work well in the PF technical forums. Thanks.
 

Related Threads on Why isn't copper used for surfaces in hospitals?

Replies
7
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
16
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
3K
Replies
15
Views
4K
Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
14
Views
6K
Replies
3
Views
6K
Replies
1
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
2K
Top