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The power of antimicrobial copper for health

Antimicrobial copper installed by Teck on sink handles at the new Childcare Facility in Elkford. (Teck photo)

Nicholas L. M. Allen

Jul 5, 2023

When installed on high touch surfaces, copper will eliminate harmful bacteria within two hours.

Teck has, in recent months, been working on a collaborative cross-Canadian partnership between infection control researchers, transit authorities and private industry which has demonstrated the effectiveness of antimicrobial copper in reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses in public spaces.

According to Teck, copper has unique antimicrobial properties and is proven to continuously kill bacteria that cause infection, is safe for people and the environment and is the only solid metal touch surface registered as a public health product by Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

When installed on high touch surfaces, copper will eliminate harmful bacteria within two hours.

They claim antimicrobial copper supplements standardized cleaning by killing bacteria around the clock. Every day, high-touch surfaces present health risks to the public, but copper surfaces can help according to Teck’s website.

The results of a successfully completed, one year study, led by the medical microbiology research team at Vancouver Coastal Health and hosted by TransLink and Toronto Transit Commission, found that select copper products on public transit can eliminate up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria.

This ground breaking study was the first of its kind in North America and was fully funded by Teck as part of its Copper & Health program.

The study evaluated the efficacy of three copper-based solutions for reducing the transmission of bacteria and viruses on high-touch surfaces on public transportation.

The solutions tested included thermal coated copper surface layers, copper alloys, and copper decals.

Test results showed that select copper products can eliminate up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria on public transit and 99.9 per cent of viruses in a laboratory setting within two hours of contact.

The medical microbiology team from Vancouver Coastal Health, supported by Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, conducted tests every two months over the course of a year, analyzing samples from both copper and non-copper surfaces on public transit.

This phase of the study was critical in determining the long-term viability of copper as a material for high-touch surfaces on public transportation, with particular emphasis on its antimicrobial properties and potential for infection control in public settings.

Led by the Vancouver Coastal Health medical microbiology team, researchers tested for virus-killing capabilities, including surrogates for COVID-19 and Noroviruses.

This testing is crucial, as it demonstrates the potential for copper surfaces to reduce the risk of transmission of viruses in addition to bacteria. Results of the in-laboratory studies showed consistent viral load reduction for surrogates of COVID-19 and Noroviruses, as well as the bacterial testing, across all copper products compared to no reduction in the stainless-steel comparison.

The findings have significant implications for public health, especially during pandemics and outbreaks, and highlight the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations between health care providers, academic researchers and industry partners in improving infection control measures.

The success of this pilot project demonstrates the efficacy of copper surfaces in reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses in shared public spaces.

The project is the result of a partnership between Teck Resources Limited, Toronto Transit Commission, TransLink, Vancouver Coastal Health, Mount Sinai Hospital/University Health Network, the Coalition for Community and Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR), UBC Department of Materials Engineering, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation and Westech Cleaning Audit Systems.

The trial followed preceding studies conducted by the Infection Prevention and Control team at Vancouver Coastal Health that have shown copper to be highly durable and effective at killing bacteria in laboratory and healthcare settings

Teck and the Ktunaxa Regional Health Centre previously announced a partnership to install antimicrobial copper on high-touch, high-traffic surfaces in the new facility.

“Teck is committed to making a positive difference in the communities where we operate through initiatives such as this one with the new Ktunaxa Regional Health Centre,” said Robin Sheremeta, Senior Vice President, Coal, Teck, “This investment will help keep patients, healthcare workers and the entire community safer through copper’s natural ability to reduce the spread of infection.”

The focus of the health centre is to provide effective and culturally appropriate services according to Debbie Whitehead, Director of Ktunaxa Nation Council’s Social Investment Sector.

“It will serve primarily Ktunaxa, Indigenous and Aboriginal clients and families, and will replace our current clinic once it’s ready. We’re thankful to Teck for working with us to make this new, larger home for healthcare safer and better. We can’t wait to move in,” said Whitehead.

The centre will open in the fall of 2023 in downtown Cranbrook, B.C. The Ktunaxa Regional Health Centre will connect patients with nurse practitioners and other health professionals.

It will be a hub for clients to access numerous other services, including commu-nicable disease control, immunizations, disease screening, sexual health, prenatal services and health education.

More information is available at

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