Brass proven to kill contagions on contact.

How Brass can join the fight against Corona virus transmission.

Germs, contagions, superbugs- whatever you want to call them, we all have them on our hands- even with regular thorough hand washing with soap and using anti-bacterial hand sanitiser. These bacteria are spread from person to person by touching surfaces in the home, on public transport, in shops, public buildings, and in the workplace. ‘Touch surfaces’ such as light switches, handrails, and doorknobs are hot spots for the transmission of bacterial and viral infection and may not get cleaned for hours, days, or even weeks.

In 2012, Professor Bill Keevil, a professor of Environmental Healthcare and Head of the Microbiology Group at Southampton University, was raising awareness of the benefits of using copper and alloys containing copper to prevent bacteria from spreading on communal touch surfaces; his research found that on surfaces such as plastic, glass, and even stainless steel, bacteria can survive for weeks- on copper surfaces they die within minutes.

But how does copper kill bacteria?

Copper, and alloys containing copper, is defined as antimicrobial- simply put, this means bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and viruses, are killed on contact with the metallic surface. Antimicrobial action of copper works by the copper releasing electrically charged particles (ions) when contagion is transferred to the surface by touch, sneeze, coughs, or vomit. The ions stop the microbe cell respiration which in turn damages the cell membrane and protein viral coat that protects it. This cell damage destroys the DNA and RNA inside. By the DNA being destroyed, the contagion cannot mutate- and by breaking the cycle of cell mutation the microbe will not develop a resistance to copper.

While cleaning of touch surfaces may happen at best daily, copper and copper alloys continue to be active 24/7, even as microbes mutate each year, copper will continue to be effective against these changes.

The temperature of the surface does not stop the copper being effective on the war on germs; research found that although E. coli DNA was rapidly killed on copper at between 21°C and 37°C it was slower but still effective at 4°C. If you look at healthcare settings where the temperature range will be within the fast acting antimicrobial action of copper, it is east to see how this could have a huge impact in the hygiene of busy wards and intensive care units- worldwide studies have found that in these healthcare environments where copper alloy touch surfaces are used there is up to a 90% reduction of live bacteria present.

So why is Copper not used more widely to improve protection from contagion?

Brass doorknobs, handles, and handrails used to be a common sight in public places- particularly on the high street, in cinemas, restaurants, pubs, theatres, and shops. Over the years interior design styles have moved towards the use of different materials to create modern looks and possibly save money; but at what cost?

The production of copper containing fixtures and fittings is no more expensive than materials such as stainless steel- although stainless steel is easy to keep clean due to its reflective surface, microscopic scratches and indentations leave spaces for germs to escape cleaning, and once the steel is cleaned, microbes can continue to accumulate and multiply until the next manual cleaning cycle. Copper continues to kill microbes on contact, it remains effective constantly. A Health Care Consortium study from the University of York found that patient stays in hospitals were reduced by the use of antimicrobial surfaces because of less incidence of MRSA and other common infections easily transmitted in busy hospitals- this cost reduction from shorter inpatient stays was found to offer payback for installation of copper fixtures and fittings in as little as 2 months, and of course, once fitted they would continue to reduce inpatient stays so saving money in the long term too.

This simple solution to infection control is something that is easily achievable in domestic, commercial, and public settings- if you would like to know more about the properties of copper why not read our in depth guide here.

You can also browse and shop our wide range of brass products on our online store.