Feb 22 2007
It's cold and flu season, and you can't be too careful about the spread of germs. Have you ever wondered who touched that doorknob before you? When someone with a cold or the flu sneezes or coughs into his hand and then opens a door, the next person to touch that doorknob runs the risk of becoming infected. Cross-contamination of bacteria and viruses is one of the leading ways illnesses are spread. Frequent hand washing is one way to avoid the transmission of germs; another is to make the surfaces self-cleaning.
Studies being conducted at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom are proving that copper and its alloys, brass and bronze, effectively eliminate bacteria and viruses that cause illness. The research has also shown that stainless steel, aluminum and plastic touch surfaces do nothing to help eradicate germs. Once contaminated, a stainless steel doorknob, faucet or handrail can harbor bacteria and viruses until it is disinfected, usually with harsh chemicals. However, uncoated copper, including brass and bronze alloys with high copper content, are intrinsically antimicrobial and begin eliminating pathogens such as streptococcus, staphylococcus and Influenza A on contact.
According to Dr. Harold Michels of the Copper Development Association, which is sponsoring the studies, "People have been using copper to fight infections and illness for thousands of years. The Egyptians used it to sterilize drinking water, the fifth century B.C. Greek doctor Hippocrates used it to treat skin irritations and open wounds, and the Aztecs used it on sore throats." Michels suggests using copper, brass or bronze for doorknobs and handles, push plates, countertops, sinks and other frequently touched hardware may help cut down on cross-contamination and the spread of infection.