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Copper & Health

As a major copper producer, we believe we can play an important role in increasing the use of antimicrobial copper in both healthcare facilities and public spaces to reduce the spread of infections. Through our Copper & Health program, Teck is building partnerships, raising awareness, and improving health outcomes for those most at risk and as we move through our daily lives.

Teck Partners to Test Germ-Killing Copper on Vancouver Transit

Teck Partners to Test Germ-Killing Copper on Vancouver Transit

Teck is partnering with TransLink, Vancouver Coastal Health, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (“CHAIR”), and the University of British Columbia to test antimicrobial copper coatings on high-touch transit surfaces on buses and SkyTrain in Vancouver, B.C. 

This project is the first of its kind on a transit system in North America and the latest in Teck’s ongoing efforts to promote the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in healthcare and public spaces through our Copper & Health Program.

 

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The Role of Antimicrobial Copper

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 up to 99.9% of harmful bacteria and viruses. As a result, around the world there is growing use of antimicrobial copper to reduce the spread of infections; in transit, commercial spaces, sports facilities, and most importantly, healthcare facilities.

Antimicrobial copper requires no new processes, staff training or special maintenance. While infrastructure and equipment can be cleaned and sanitized daily, that still leaves 23-and-a-half hours for bacteria to grow, and for people to touch surfaces and spread bacteria. Antimicrobial copper supplements standardized cleaning by killing bacteria around the clock.

Supporting the Fight Against COVID-19
Copper’s unique antimicrobial properties make it ideally suited to support the fight against COVID-19. When installed in high-touch, high-traffic locations, like on transit, in airports and at gateways to public spaces, copper infrastructure can help reduce the spread of infection and keep our communities moving safely.


What are Healthcare-acquired Infections?

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

Every day, these preventable infections result in prolonged hospital stays, increased costs for the healthcare system, a rise in antibiotic resistance and unnecessary deaths. More than 220,000 patients will contract an infection while receiving care in Canada annually, and 12,000 of these patients will die as a result. HAIs are the fourth-leading cause of death in Canada and cost the Canadian healthcare system more than $1 billion annually.

 

Teck is a proud member of the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction and is supporting its goal of an 80% reduction in HAIs by 2024. Learn more.

 


Our Copper & Health Program

As a major copper producer, we are committed to raising awareness and advocating for the use of copper as an innovative solution to healthcare-acquired infections. There is no commercial benefit to Teck from the increased use of copper in healthcare, as the total quantity of metal required is extremely small. Rather, we have two goals: to improve health outcomes for people and to raise awareness about the important role that mining and metals play in our everyday lives.

Our Copper & Health program has three focus areas:

Building the Evidence Base

SARS-Cov-2 Copper Alloy Study (in progress)
A study currently underway at George Washington University will directly test copper’s impacts on the novel coronavirus, including varied alloys, time periods and conditions. It will build on a previous National Institute of Health study that showed that SARS-CoV-2 was completely destroyed within four hours on copper surfaces, as compared to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Results of the Teck-supported study are expected in late 2020.

Cross-Canada Durability Study
While there is growing evidence around the world to support the use of copper surfaces in healthcare, we learned that gaps in existing research were a barrier to adoption in Canada. Hospital administrators were hesitant to make a capital investment when it was unknown if these products would be effective over the long-term. 

From 2017-2020, Teck supported a study in four hospitals across Canada including Vancouver General Hospital, B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospital, Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto’s North York General Hospital, alongside study partners VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, the University of British Columbia and the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR).    

The study, published in February 2020 in the Journal of Biointerphases, found that three copper products exhibited significant (albeit varied) bacterial reduction compared to stainless steel, and maintained their efficacy over time. These findings are being shared broadly with healthcare decision makers and our healthcare partners and contacts to encourage the continued adoption of copper and revised cleaning practices for existing products.

CSA Standard on Healthcare Cleaning & Infection
In March 2020, the Canadian Standards Association published the first national standard in Canada related to the cleaning and disinfection of healthcare facilities. The standard will improve healthcare cleaning procedures and encourage innovative approaches that are being increasingly adopted around the world. It includes the first formal recommendation in Canada to introduce coppers surfaces as a means to reduce the spread of infection in hospitals.
Teck’s funding supported the establishment of the technical committee of 25 Canadian healthcare experts, extensive stakeholder engagement and a national public review process to support publication of the standard. 

Partnership & Advocacy

Transit Partnership

Due to the global pandemic, the importance of reducing the spread of infection spread outside of healthcare gained widespread recognition. Teck supported a pilot project with Translink to test 3 copper alloy on high-volume trains and buses, the first of its kind in North America. Additionally study partners include VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, the University of British Columbia and the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR).    

The study will test bacterial reduction, durability and maintenance costs, as well as rider comfort and trust.  If successful, the results of this pilot could have wide-reaching impacts for the transit industry and other industries that rely on shared public spaces. The study results are expected to be available in February 2021.

Antimicrobial copper coatings on high-touch transit surfaces are being piloted for their capacity to help reduce the spread of infection


Hospital Partnerships

To date, antimicrobial copper has been installed in more than 300 healthcare facilities in 26 countries in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. However; Canada and other countries are behind in adding this germ-killing tool to their arsenal.

Teck has partnered with local hospitals throughout Canada and Chile to support installation of copper-infused surfaces and equipment in emergency rooms, ICUs, medical & surgical centres and other high-infection risk areas to make hospitals safer for patients, employees and visitors. 

Each investment includes a full review and assessment of the project to further research on the impact and benefits of copper in reducing HAI.

Partners include Vancouver General Hospital, Lions Gate Hospital and Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in British Columbia, and Iquique Hospital in Chile. We are also engaging with other hospitals to explore potential partnerships.


Copper-infused counters at VGH are helping to reduce HAI infection rates


While there can be a higher up-front cost to install copper surfaces, the payoff can be extraordinary: an investigation by the York Health Economics Consortium in the United Kingdom found that the cost to install antimicrobial copper components in hospitals would be recouped in less than two months due to the decrease in patient infections and reduced length of stay.

Advocacy 

As evidence and in-hospital use of copper surfaces increases throughout Canada, we continue to see growing interest from a number of key stakeholders. Teck is sharing research and information with provincial health authorities and working with provincial and federal governments to support further research and use of copper. Through our national advocacy work with the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR), we are continuing to work with the federal and provincial government to establish standards and recommendations for all new healthcare facility projects.

Raising Awareness
In November 2018, Teck worked with a microbiologist to swab commonly touched surfaces throughout the Teck’s Head Office in Vancouver. We discovered a wide range of bacterial burden on various surfaces, and this data helped inform a recommendation to install copper-infused hardware on all common areas and bathroom door handles, as well as the 33rd floor reception desk and courier counter. 

In November 2019, the retrofitted surfaces were re-swabbed. There was an 80-90% reduction in bacteria on the high-touch surfaces replaced with copper. We are pleased that copper surfaces are making a real difference in reducing the spread of bacteria throughout the office.

We are now working with organizations to support the installation of copper surfaces to provide added protection in public spaces and workplaces.


Copper Case Study: Sentara Leigh Hospital, Virginia

In 2013, Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, VA embarked on a major redevelopment project to rebuild its existing hospital in stages. The first phase of construction was to replace the 1970s-era acute care wing with a new hospital wing. As part of the redevelopment project, the hospital installed more than 15,000 horizontal square feet of antimicrobial copper on virtually every clinical and patient room surface in the new wing. Researchers wanted to determine if the installation of antimicrobial copper on a wide range of surfaces could help reduce healthcare-acquired infections and improve patient health. It is the world’s largest known clinical trial of antimicrobial copper surfaces to date.

The results were overwhelmingly positive. The new hospital wing with copper surfaces had 83% fewer C. difficile infections and 78% fewer multi-drug resistant organism (MRDO) infections. There were no changes in the HAI rates in the unmodified hospital wings at Sentara Leigh Hospital.

“Each one of those avoided infections is going to get patients out of the hospital quicker, potentially could avoid a re-admission…and all of this is not even discussing the impact on the patient”, says Robert Broermann, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Sentara Healthcare, discussing the return on investment from installing antimicrobial copper in the new wing. 

Given the success of the trial, Sentara Healthcare plans to retro-fit all 12 Sentara hospitals with antimicrobial copper products, including bedside tables and bed rails, to reduce healthcare-acquired infections and keep patients healthy. Sentara is also exploring the potential for antimicrobial copper products in its nursing and assisted living centers. Learn more


Copper in the News

Vancouver Province
Don Lindsay: Copper’s Unusual Antimicrobial Property Gives It a Part to Play in the Battle Against COVID-19

Vancouver Sun
COVID-19: BC’s Innovators Step Up to Solve Pandemic Problems

Vancouver Sun
Copper Surfaces Can Reduce the Spread of Disease in Hospitals: VCH Study

Concord Monitor
My turn: Three cheers for copper in war on pandemics

Fast Company
Copper masks are the latest craze. Should you buy one? 

Smithsonian Magazine
Copper’s Virus-Killing Powers Were Known Even to the Ancients

Fast Company
Copper Kills Coronavirus. Why Aren’t Our Surfaces Covered In It?

ABC News
New study: COVID-19 only survives on copper surfaces for up to four hours, compared to three days on plastic and stainless steel

Washington Post
The bacteria-fighting super element that’s making a comeback in hospitals: copper

Forbes 
Copper Is The New Gold Standard For Saving Lives

CBC News
New copper technology introduced at Ontario hospital to prevent patients from acquiring infections 

Toronto Sun
OPINION: Investment in new treatments needed to battle superbugs in hospitals 

Word Heath Organization 
According to the World Health Organization, antimicrobial resistance is one of the ten threats to global health in 2019. Without effective antibiotics, minor infections and medical procedures will become increasingly dangerous. Antimicrobial copper surfaces are one solution: they reduce the spread of infection and prevent the transfer of antibiotic resistance between bacteria on those surfaces. (WHO)

 


Teck

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