3 min reading time
Story 064 – 2004 – People

Copper gives germs no chance

The antimicrobial effect of copper is being researched

What has long been known is now being scientifically investigated: the germicidal effect of copper surfaces. They can make an important contribution to the fight against germs in hospitals and other public institutions.

It is widely known that copper has excellent conductivity for heat and electricity. Not so common is a completely different positive ability: copper has an antimicrobial effect, which means that pathogens and microbes have a survival time of only a few minutes when they come into contact with copper surfaces. This is not a new finding at all; even the ancient Egyptians used copper between 2,600 and 2,200 BC to sterilise wounds and drinking water.

What is new, is that the topic has been systematically and scientifically addressed in the recent past. The relevant industry associations are leading the way in this, supported by Wieland, among others. Numerous laboratory tests have confirmed that other materials do not even begin to have the high antimicrobial effect of copper. In addition, the interactions between metal and biology were examined in order to better understand the mechanism of action. And there have been several field tests in hospitals, kindergartens and other public institutions worldwide.

In order to increase awareness and acceptance of the hygienic importance of copper, the measures were also flanked by a cross-company communication and marketing initiative, which was coordinated by the associations. This is visibly expressed in the internationally used label "Antimicrobial Copper", and various websites also provide information about the good hygienic properties of the material.

Even though Wieland now regularly supplies the copper material from which door handles, handrails, grab handles or light switches for hospitals are produced: Copper materials have not yet made a major breakthrough in the medical and hygiene market. Wieland therefore continues to carry out laboratory tests in order to be able to provide well-founded factual arguments for market development. Unfortunately, it can be assumed that the sad reality will provide the best arguments for copper materials in the future: The topic of multi-resistant germs and the worryingly increasing number of hospital infections are now receiving widespread media attention. It is therefore both probable and desirable that the force of the facts will lead to a significant increase in the use of copper in this important sector.

Lab tests confirm: Germs are not able to develop resistance to copper surfaces - an aspect not to be underestimated from a hygienic point of view.