The use of copper surface treatments in communal areas has been increasing in recent years, and for good reason: studies show that copper surfaces can help with many types of contamination—from bacteria to viruses to even microorganisms. Copper has antimicrobial effects that are easy to harness and highly effective.
Pre-COVID, if you spent any time in communal areas—such as the break room, coffee bar, or bathroom—you may not have thought about the germs that are building up on the surfaces you touch every day. However, with the recent health crisis, that has all changed. And as people start heading back into public spaces, these buildings need to propose a system that will help to reduce the spread of germs in germ-prone places to help people to feel more comfortable in their surroundings.
The following evidence gathered from case studies demonstrates that communal areas benefit from installing copper surface treatments throughout their facilities to curb the spread of germs.
Tried and Tested Copper
Copper's antimicrobial applications are not a new discovery. In fact, copper and its compounds have been used for centuries for their disinfectant properties. Humans have a long history of benefitting from copper, with purposeful use dating as far back as thousands of years. In ancient times, copper kept food and water safe from contamination because of its toxicity to a range of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and algae. The metal is both durable and resistant to corrosion--the ancient Egyptian pyramids, the Statue of Liberty, and copper plumbing in homes are all examples of how copper construction is prized and lasts for years.
A copper surface's antimicrobial property is due to a process coined “contact killing.” When bacteria come in contact with copper, copper releases ions that are deadly to germs. The ions attach to germs' cell walls and disrupt their metabolism, which causes them to die. Today, copper is the only registered solid metal touch surface with Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Case Studies in Communal Areas
One of the biggest concerns in a post-COVID world is the possibility of spreading germs as travelers return to the airport. A past example of the effectiveness of copper installations occurred in the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, where 50 water bottle filling stations made with antimicrobial copper were installed. As the dispensers experience high traffic, the copper provides antimicrobial protection for users. Airports could benefit from antimicrobial solutions to curb the spread of germs, as well as to treat other surfaces, such as luggage carts and handrails.
Scientific experts recommend copper surfaces be installed in hospitals and health clinics to reduce the spread of microorganisms in hospitals. For example, Pullman Regional Hospital in Washington State installed numerous copper antimicrobial components in its 95,000 square foot facility, including on high-touch faucet levers on sinks and accessibility-access buttons on doors. The antimicrobial copper products installed proved highly durable and effective in killing bacteria.
Most recently, the Vancouver metro’s transit system, Translink, installed antimicrobial copper coverings throughout several of their buses and SkyTrain cars. The study found that the copper covering installations killed more than 99% of bacteria within one hour of its contact with the surface. The recent successful pilot had led to the installation of more copper products to analyze their efficacy over a longer period of time in various conditions.
The Bottom Line
Public spaces are always in danger of being contaminated by pathogens. Think about it: we all use public restrooms, where we put our hands on the same toilet handle as people who may be sick, and then we use the same hand to touch door handles or even to put food in our mouths. In a 2018 study on high-touch surfaces in a hospital, Staphylococcus aureus was the most common bacteria isolate found, a major human pathogen that can cause a variety of clinical infections.
Communal areas such as schools, hospitals, and office buildings are filled with people from all walks of life, many of whom have compromised immune systems and weaker resistance to infections. While these people are in public, they pick up germs, bacteria, and viruses from surfaces around them and can then spread them to others, either directly or indirectly. An applicable example could be someone coughing into their hands and then touching a door handle, that somebody else then uses.
By design, the surfaces in many communal areas are often made out of plastic, a material that is non-porous and allows for the transfer of germs from one surface to another. But, when surfaces have coverings installed made out of bacteria-fighting metals such as copper, its natural antimicrobial properties prevent the spread of germs and illness.
Copper coverings are safe, natural, cost-effective, and easy to install, making them a solution for fighting germs in communal areas.