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Debunking the Copper Myths

Hand-Washing Is Good EnoughHealthcare-acquired infections (HAI) are an ever-present problem in the healthcare system. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are roughly 200,000 HAI incidents every year with an overwhelming 80% coming from staff, visitors, or fellow patients. This is 200,000 illnesses that can be prevented with improved safety measures. The use of antimicrobial copper is one such measure, but there are a regrettable number of misconceptions that stand in the way of its employment. Fortunately, truth always finds a way.

“Hand-Washing Is Good Enough”

The idea that proper hand-washing protocols is enough to prevent contamination makes sense on paper but doesn’t work out as well in practice. Whether through forgetfulness, overconfidence in sanitation, or underestimation of risk, healthcare workers only follow the national guidelines on hand hygiene around half the time—a figure which has been supported by both formal and informal research.

This is where copper comes in. Antimicrobial copper surfaces are meant to supplement—not replace—existing HAI control methods. Copper has the advantage of providing its protections by sheer virtue of existence and without needing humans to follow certain steps beyond periodic cleaning (and if your healthcare facility does not get cleaned regularly, you have far worse problems than hand-washing). Can hand-washing help prevent HAI incidents? Yes. Can copper surfaces help prevent HAI incidents? Yes. Can hand-washing plus copper surfaces prevent HAI incidents better than either one alone? Also yes.

“Copper is Too Expensive”

Although it is less expensive than silver—another antimicrobial metal—the costs of copper surfacing can still make some healthcare institutions hesitate. The Copper Development Association estimates that converting all primary touch surfaces in a hospital room (bed rails, IV poles, counters, chairs, etc.) to copper would be around $7,700 to $15,000 per room. Whether this is too expensive is a matter of personal budget and cost-benefit analysis. However, getting copper’s protections does not automatically require full surface replacement. Alloy coatings like Aereus Shield™ cover existing surfaces with a protective layer that offers the antimicrobial benefits of copper without needing full material replacement.

“Copper Is Ugly and Tarnishes”

Whether you consider copper’s range of colours—ranging from red to silver-gray—to be unsightly is a matter of personal opinion. Whether copper tarnishes is dependent on individual composition and different alloy mixtures exist that are more resistant to tarnishing over time.

Aereus Shield™, it should be noted, also solves this problem by providing a seamless metal coating with two finishing options: a silver colour (70% copper) or golden colour (95% copper). This means that for the aesthetically-minded, copper alloy coatings can allow for healthcare infection control without compromising on appearances.

Aereus Technologies is a Canadian Biotech company headquartered in Burlington, Ontario. Their research and development into copper alloy-based technology has resulted in the antimicrobial coating, Aereus Shield™. Contact us at 888-633-8460 to learn more about antimicrobial surfaces and how Aereus Shield™ can help enhance healthcare safety.

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Michelle Berelowitz

Michelle Berelowitz has 15+ years commercializing technology start-ups in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor with strong strategic, operational and management skills within both publicly traded and technology based start-up companies. Michelle has a background in manufacturing, ICT and biotech combined with degrees in political science, finance &strategic management and Masters of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology from the University of Waterloo.