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Antimicrobial Copper to Improve Health

In healthcare facilities across Canada, harmful bacteria and viruses exist on commonly touched surfaces. As a result, patients, healthcare workers and visitors to healthcare facilities are at risk of becoming infected with serious healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs). These infections can spread from touching contaminated shared surfaces, such as door handles, push buttons or equipment. 

According to Infection Prevention and Control Canada, more than 200,000 patients (1 in 9 patients) contract an HAI every year while receiving healthcare in Canada. This is estimated to cost the Canadian healthcare system more than $1 billion annually.

Copper is a naturally-occurring trace element that is viewed as an innovative solution to reducing the spread of infection. Antimicrobial copper surfaces can continuously kill greater than 99.9% of bacteria that cause HAIs within two hours of contact. 

Copper in Use: Vancouver General Hospital 

In 2013, Teck contributed $2.5 million to the redevelopment of the Intensive Care Unit at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). As part of this redevelopment, the VGH Intensive Care Unit is the first healthcare facility in Canada to outfit horizontal surfaces – nursing station desks and counters inside the patient’s room – with a copper oxide-infused surface material to reduce bacteria by 99%. This has the potential to significantly reduce the spread of healthcare-acquired infections in the ICU unit and save lives.

In the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at VGH, there is a research pilot being conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Bryce, and her colleagues, with support from BC Genomics and the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction. This study is evaluating the bacterial composition of bone marrow transplant patients, in addition to hospital staff and their environment, when placed in two different rooms: a regular patient room and a room re-engineered with copper nickel alloys on 14 high-touch surfaces. With results expected in 2017, the study aims to improve infection control practice and ultimately reduce HAIs at VGH. 

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Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with business units focused on copper, zinc, steelmaking coal and energy.