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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 hospitals to reduce the spread of healthcare-acquired infections. Through our new Copper & Health program, Teck is building partnerships, raising awareness and improving health outcomes for patients, visitors and healthcare workers.

Copper Saves Lives Campaign

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 to healthcare facilities 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 250,000 patients will contract an infection while receiving care in Canada annually, and 14,000 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.

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 99.9% of harmful bacteria. As a result, around the world there is growing use of antimicrobial copper in healthcare facilities to reduce the spread of healthcare-acquired infections. To date, antimicrobial copper has been installed in more than 90 healthcare facilities in 26 countries in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. 

Antimicrobial copper requires no new processes, staff training or special maintenance. While patient rooms and common areas are sanitized and cleaned every day, that still leaves 23-and-a-half hours for bacteria to grow, and for people to touch surfaces and spread bacteria between patients, visitors and healthcare workers. Antimicrobial copper supplements standardized hospital cleaning by killing bacteria around the clock.

While there is a higher up-front cost to install the 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.
 

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.

Numbers We Can't Ignore

250,000

Patients will contract an infection while receiving care in Canada every year; 14,000 of these patients will die.

50%

Of healthcare-acquired infections are resistant to at least one type of antibiotic.

$1 billion

Healthcare-acquired infections are estimated to cost the Canadian healthcare system annually.

99.9%

Amount of bacteria killed within two hours of contact with antimicrobial copper.

Our Copper & Health Program

"Finding new and innovative ways to reduce healthcare-acquired infections will not only help save patients’ lives, it will keep visitors, nurses, doctors and others from getting sick when visiting a loved one or doing their job. This study has the potential to improve overall healthcare for thousands of people, which is a pretty incredible opportunity and something we are very excited to be a part of." - Don Lindsay, President and CEO

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 raise awareness about the important role that mining and metals play in our everyday lives and to improve health outcomes for people.

Our Copper & Health program has three focus areas:

Improving Health 
With Teck’s support, Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) recently opened its newly-expanded Intensive Care Unit, which included the installation of antimicrobial copper on all horizontal surfaces – the first such use of copper in a Canadian hospital. As a result of our advocacy, a number of health authorities in B.C. are exploring opportunities to incorporate antimicrobial copper in their upcoming construction and redevelopment projects. 

Building the Evidence Base in Canada
While there is growing evidence around the world to support the use of antimicrobial copper, we recognize that important gaps in the research have been a barrier to widespread adoption in Canada. To that end, in 2017 we supported the development and launch of a study in healthcare facilities across Canada to answer these fundamental questions: 

  • What is the antimicrobial efficacy of the three most prevalent copper products in healthcare? 
  • How durable are these products in a healthcare environment? 
  • What is the potential for antimicrobial resistance? 

Participants include UBC-VGH Hospital Foundation, the University of British Columbia, Vancouver General Hospital, B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospital, Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto’s North York General Hospital and the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR).    

The research Teck is supporting will explore the most effective and efficient applications of antimicrobial copper and help healthcare decision-makers and infection control specialists better understand how to best reduce infection rates in hospitals and other facilities.

Advocacy & Awareness
We are advocating with health authorities and medical professionals to scale up the use of antimicrobial copper in hospitals across Canada. We are also working to educate the public and build demand for antimicrobial copper in healthcare facilities to help keep people healthy and safe. We are developing a national campaign to engage young people across Canada to rethink how innovative solutions can make a difference in the lives of our families and friends. Our goal is to inform the public about the significant risk of contracting an HAI in Canada and the important role mining and metals can play in keeping people healthy.

Copper in Action

To minimize exposure to harmful bacteria and to keep their players healthy, the NHL’s LA Kings recently introduced dumbbells and other fitness equipment made with antimicrobial copper surfaces in their strength and training facility. Learn more.

More than 50 water bottle-filling stations made with antimicrobial copper are located throughout the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. Learn more.

Ronald McDonald House provides temporary housing and support for families of children who are seriously ill. In Charleston, South Carolina, Ronald McDonald House installed antimicrobial copper on a number of high touch surfaces, including sinks and faucets, cabinet pulls, dining room tables and hand rails, in an effort to keep families and children healthy. Learn more. 

 

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

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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.