A study has found that copper fittings rapidly killed bugs on hospital wards, succeeding where other infection control measures failed.
It is believed that the metal 'suffocates' germs, preventing them from breathing. It may also stop them from feeding, and destroy their DNA.
Lab tests show that the metal kills off the deadly MRSA and C difficile superbugs. It also kills other dangerous germs, including the flu virus and the E coli food poisoning bug.
During the ten-week trial on a medical ward, a set of taps, a lavatory seat and a push plate on an entrance door were replaced with copper versions. The copper items had up to 95 percent fewer bugs on their surface than non-copper versions whenever they were tested.
Germs in your home can show up where you least expect them, even if you diligently try to keep your home clean. Despite good efforts by most to keep their homes germ free, over 65 percent of colds, 50 percent of all cases of diarrhea and 50 percent to 80 percent of food-borne illnesses are caught in the home, and contact with common household items are often thought to be the trigger.
According to a study cited in an ABC News article on November 3rd, the average human hand harbors about 150 different species of bacteria. After taking samples from the palms of 51 college students, the researchers were able to identify 4,742 species of bacteria overall.
Some of these are beneficial; others can cause serious, even life-threatening illness.
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise, and hospitals are notorious for being hotbeds for dangerous germs, spread via contact with contaminated surfaces.
Approximately 1.7 million Americans contracted infections during hospital stays in 2007, and a subsequent 100,000 people perished from these diseases, according to the U.S. Center of Disease Control (CDC).
What’s the Germiest Place in Your House?
Another study cited in a recent Washington Post article, found that commonly touched areas in homes where someone had a cold tested positive for cold germs about 40 percent of the time.
Of the areas tested, all salt and pepper shakers were found to be contaminated, as were:
- One-third of all doorknobs
- More than half of all refrigerator handles
- Nearly a quarter of all light switches
- More than half of all remote controls
- 80 percent of all bathroom faucets
- Nearly half of all phones
- Three-quarters of all dishwasher handles
Your kitchen sink area is another notorious hotbed for germs, containing more dirt than a typical bathroom, and over 500,000 bacteria per square inch in the drain.
These germs can normally survive on surfaces for two days or longer.
The Awesome Power of Copper
The healing power of copper has actually been recognized for thousands of years. The Egyptians used it more than 4,000 years ago to sterilize wounds and drinking water. The Aztecs used the metal to treat skin conditions.
Today, copper is a common ingredient in medicines such as antiseptic and antifungal creams. And, earlier this year, the United States' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the registration of a proposed public health claim stating that surfaces composed of certain copper alloys can kill off life-threatening bacteria.
According to Guillermo Figueroa of the nutrition and food technology department of the University of Chile in Santiago, it’s the ions released by the copper that kill bacteria.
“Copper ions separate on contact with bacteria and cause irreversible damage to the bacteria's cells," Figueroa said. "It is a very swift, physical chemical process. They die quickly."
Copper has even been found to be a very effective at exterminating Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSRA), more commonly known as “the super bug."
In tests sponsored by the Copper Development Association Inc. (the Latin-American arm of the International Copper Association), a grouping of 100 million MSRA bacterium atrophied and died in a mere 90 minutes when placed on a copper surface at room temperature.
The same number of MSRA bacteria on steel and aluminum surfaces actually increased over time.
In light of these findings, installing copper faucets, light switches, toilet seats and push plates in germ infested areas such as hospitals and nursing homes could quite literally save thousands of lives each year.
Although it is usually thought to be an expensive metal, copper is not that much more expensive than stainless steel. You can find copper kitchen faucets, for example, for as low as $150-200.
The Safest, Most Effective Ways to Wipe Out Germs
If you are looking for one simple way to wipe out germs and reduce your chances of becoming sickened by them, it would be to wash your hands regularly using plain soap and water. It has been shown time and time again that washing your hands with soap and water can kill viruses that cause:
- The common cold
- Hepatitis A
- Acute gastroenteritis
- Other illnesses
In fact, studies have found that soap and water work better than the waterless, alcohol-based hand wipes and rubs.
That said, avoid becoming obsessive about washing your hands; if you wash them too frequently you can actually eliminate many of the protective oils in your skin, which can cause your skin to crack and bleed.
Other Words of Wisdom
It is important not to make the mistake of believing that copper is so important to killing these infections that you should increase it as a supplement in your body. This would be unwise. Copper is an essential nutrient, but most of us have too much and it would be an error to take large doses of it.
Also it is important to avoid using antibacterial liquids and soaps. While building up antibiotic-resistance and thereby contributing to the creation of superbugs, these products disrupt the balance of bacteria, both good and bad, in your body and in your home, making it much easier for the bad bacteria to flourish.
Furthermore, the active ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan, an antibacterial agent that kills bacteria and inhibits bacterial growth. However, triclosan not only kills bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells.
Other common disinfectant chemicals are toxic in their own right. For instance Lister’s carbolic acid, now known as phenol, is a common main ingredient in household detergents like Lysol, Pine-Sol and Spic-n-Span. It’s also found in mouthwash. Phenol is toxic, and people who are hypersensitive can experience serious side effects at very low levels.
An all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Just put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other.