Copper’s Known to Combat Viruses — Can it Help With Public Health?
Copper’s comeback could be beneficial for more than just interior design. Some research show that copper kills certain viruses on contact.
The humble doorknob has become a symbol of danger in recent weeks, as we’ve learned exactly how long viruses can live on surfaces—COVID-19 can survive for two to three days on stainless steel, according to unpublished studies. This discovery has also led to renewed interest in copper as a tool for combating nasties.
Copper and copper alloys like brass, bronze, and copper-nickel, have long been known to have health benefits—but did you know these metals are naturally antimicrobial? Some research has even gone so far as to show that copper kills certain viruses on contact. Meaning they can’t be transferred to the next person who touches that copper doorknob. (This type of contact transmission is thought to be one way the novel coronavirus is spreading so quickly.)
“We’ve seen viruses just blow apart [on copper],” Bill Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, told Fast Company this week. “They land on copper and it just degrades them.”
Does this mean we should all immediately replace our hardware with on-trend brass? Well, not solely for medicinal purposes.
According to the American Society for Microbiology, research has firmly established the antimicrobial properties of copper surfaces, and the EPA has registered almost 300 different copper surfaces as antimicrobial. Numerous viruses and bacteria experience contact killing upon exposure to copper and copper alloy surface studies show, including MRSA, Staph, Influenza A and E-Coli. However, the length of time it takes to be effective varies significantly, from 30 seconds to many hours. So it’s not something you can rely on to keep your home germ-free. (Here’s a list of EPA-recommended disinfectants for use against COVID-19).
Where it would be best deployed, according to Keevil, is in hospitals and medical facilities. His research follows up on work done by Dr. Phyllis J. Kuhn in the 1980s.