News | March 24, 2008

U.S. EPA Approves Registration of Antimicrobial Copper Alloys

March 25, 2008 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the registration of antimicrobial copper alloys, with public health claims acknowledging 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, said the Copper Development Association.

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).

Testing under EPA-approved protocols demonstrates that copper, brass and bronze are effective against a number of disease-causing bacteria. One study shows on copper alloy surfaces, greater than 99.9 percent of MRSA superbugs are killed within two hours at room temperature.

“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," according to statements that are included in the registration. “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.”

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate infections acquired in U.S. hospitals affect about 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 hand-washing and disinfection regimens, has far-reaching implications, said the Copper Development Association. 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 will not wear away: they can offer solid, long-term protection. The Copper Development Association said discussions are ongoing with major hospital equipment manufacturers about the development of appropriate copper-based products.

The Copper Development Association is the information, education, market and technical development arm of the copper, brass and bronze industries in the U.S.

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