Every day, high-touch surfaces present health risks to the public. But copper surfaces can help. With naturally antimicrobial properties, copper can help stop the spread of bacteria. And by working together to introduce more copper surfaces in public spaces, we can too.
The Power 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 within two hours. 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.
How Antimicrobial Copper Works
Historically, copper’s antimicrobial properties have been well known among ancient civilizations and copper was often used for skin ailments, wound healing and water purification. Copper was first clinically investigated for its antimicrobial properties in 1983. Since then, multiple clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of antimicrobial copper in deactivating bacteria and viruses.
Copper’s powerful antimicrobial properties kill bacteria in sequential steps:
First, copper ions on the surface are recognized by the bacteria as an essential nutrient and enter the cell;
Then, a lethal dose of copper ions interferes with normal cell functions;
Finally, the copper binds to the enzymes, impeding the cell from breathing, eating, digesting, or creating energy.
This rapid killing mechanism prevents cells from replicating on copper surfaces and significantly reduces the number of bacteria living on the surface.
Antimicrobial copper is effective against bacteria that causes common diseases like staph infections and E. coli. The metal continuously kills bacteria and never wears out. It’s 100% recyclable, and minimal amounts are needed for a product to reach antimicrobial efficacy.
Teck recently sponsored development of a white paper in partnership with KPMG and with the support of infection prevention and control specialists from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to review how antimicrobial copper could be utilized to reduce the spread of infection in health and public settings.
Bacteria-killing copper installed on Toronto and Vancouver transit vehicles
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Copper and Health
Copper and Health at Teck
Teck Partners to Test Germ-Killing Copper on Vancouver Transit
Bacteria-killing copper to be installed on Toronto and Vancouver transit vehicles
Antimicrobial copper coatings are being installed on high-touch transit surfaces on Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and TransLink vehicles, following a successful pilot phase on transit that supports copper’s ability to kill up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria on transit surfaces.
“I want to thank the TTC, TransLink and all partners for their leadership in making our communities safer using antimicrobial copper on transit. Through our Copper & Health program, Teck is working with numerous organizations to leverage copper’s unique antimicrobial properties and enhance public health and safety.” Don Lindsay, President and CEO
Reducing 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 between 8,000 and 12,000 of these patients will die as a result each year. Infections are the fourth-leading cause of death in Canada, and HAIs cost the Canadian healthcare system in the range of $4 billion annually.
Economic analyses and clinical studies have predicted that implementing antimicrobial copper could reduce HAIs by about 20%, which could translate into nearly $1 billion in savings for the healthcare system.
Use of antimicrobial copper to reduce infections that may be acquired in the broader community through shared spaced and infrastructure can further reduce impacts on the healthcare system, boost employee productivity, and rebuild confidence for the public returning to work and in-person activities.
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 & HealthProgram
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, as well as infections resulting from bacteria spread in busy public spaces.
The Copper & Health program has two key goals:
To improve health outcomes for people and communities
To raise awareness about the important role that mining and metals play in our everyday lives.
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 as outlined below.
Partnerships Demonstratingthe Impact of Copper
While antimicrobial copper has been deployed around the world, we are still learning about its full capabilities in diverse settings that experience high levels of public interaction and therefore increased risks of bacterial and infection spread. The Copper & Health program is focused on establishing partnerships with leading public and private organizations to install and demonstrate the use of antimicrobial copper in diverse spaces to grow institutional and public knowledge and awareness.
Copper & Health in Transit
With Canadians’ concern for health and safety in public spaces heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Teck has funded the Copper in Transit program to explore the efficacy of antimicrobial copper in public transit.
Phase 1 of this industry-leading project—the first of its kind on a transit system in North America— demonstrated that select copper products killed up to 99.9% of all bacteria in contact with the copper surfaces when installed in select transit vehicles.
During this phase, Teck partnered with TransLink, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction Canada (CHAIR), and the University of British Columbia (UBC) for the first phase of the trial, which ran for six weeks with the results made public in March 2021.
Phase 2 of the project expanded beyond Metro Vancouver with the added participation of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and the Mount Sinai Hospital/University Network.
Launched in September of 2021, this phase applied antimicrobial copper products to high-touch surfaces on several TTC buses, subway cars, and streetcars, as well as several TransLink buses and SkyTrain cars. Phase 2 will test three types of registered products, including functional copper surface layers, copper alloys, and copper decals, over the course of the year.
Antimicrobial copper coatings on high-touch transit surfaces are being piloted for their capacity to help reduce the spread of infection
Copper & Health in Hospitals
Teck is partnering with leading hospitals throughout B.C. to support innovative, new infrastructure developments and the installation of antimicrobial copper surfaces to help reduce the spread of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) and keep patients, staff and visitors healthy.
Copper has already been utilized in Vancouver General Hospital, Lions Gate Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital and Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in British Columbia, and Iquique Hospital in Chile.
Copper-infused counters at VGH are helping to reduce HAI infection rates
Teck recently announced additional new partnerships to expand the network of hospitals utilizing antimicrobial copper.
St. Paul’s Hospital Redevelopment Project
In March 2021, Teck announced a $10 million donation to help build the Emergency Department at the new St. Paul’s Hospital at the Jim Pattison Medical Centre. In addition to addressing the most pressing issues facing emergency departments—including wait times for access to treatment and the increasing trend of patients with complex mental-health and substance-use needs—the new facility will also provide improved protection from HAIs through the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces.
Lions Gate Hospital Redevelopment Project
In November 2021, Teck announced a $750,000 donation to Lions Gate Hospital Foundation to contribute to Vancouver Coastal Health’s Redevelopment Project and construction of the Paul Myers Tower Acute Care Facility at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. Part of Teck’s contribution will support the installation of antimicrobial copper surfaces, including door handles, light switches, IV poles, bed rails, door handles, countertops, and other high-touch surfaces.
Copper & Health in Post-Secondary
Teck has partnered with the three largest post-secondary institutions in B.C. to install antimicrobial copper surfaces on campuses ahead of students returning for the fall semester. The installations were completed to help reduce the spread of harmful bacteria on high-touch surfaces, while increasing awareness of copper’s antimicrobial properties and highlighting Teck’s involvement in creating safer public spaces.
More than 1,600 copper patches at Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Burnaby and Surrey campuses and at SFU’s Vancouver and Burnaby student residence buildings.
More than 800 copper patches installed throughout the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Applied Science buildings.
Antimicrobial copper patches were installed on high-touch surfaces including door handles and push bars. Posters, email and social media posts highlighting the use of antimicrobial copper on campus were used to compliment the installation and increase awareness among students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Sport & Hospitality Partnerships
Copper & Health in Sports Facilities
Teck, National Partner of the Canadian Olympic Committee, in partnership with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute (COPSI) Network, is outfitting high-performance Team Canada training facilities with antimicrobial copper on high-touch surfaces to protect athletes.
The Canadian Sport Institute Calgary (CSI Calgary) and the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) were selected as pilot project locations to include antimicrobial copper on exercise equipment and high-touch spaces, such as dumbbell handles, exercise equipment and door handles.
Building the Evidence Base
While the science behind the effectiveness of antimicrobial copper has been proven through over 200 peer-reviewed studies and publications, the Copper & Health program continues to support expanding the evidence base. Our goal is to build knowledge and understanding about the best uses and durability of antimicrobial copper in multiple settings through partnerships with infection-control specialists and research institutions across North America.
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 later this year.
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.
Copper in Transit Research Program
The ongoing Copper in Transit pilot project will include a significant research component by evaluating copper surfaces across transit vehicles in two regions over the course of a year. This trial will test three types of registered products on buses, subway cars and streetcars in the Greater Toronto Area and buses and Skytrains in Metro Vancouver.
Regular bacteria testing (every two months) will be analyzed from copper surfaces as well as non-copper surfaces on transit by Vancouver Coastal Health’ medical microbiology team, supported by Mount Sinai Hospital/University Health Network in Toronto and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In addition, Vancouver Coastal Health will be conducting laboratory testing on copper’s ability to kill viruses in addition to bacteria.
Advocating For The Adoption of Copper
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 federal and provincial government agencies responsible for healthcare, education, transportation and infrastructure, public buildings and procurement, and innovation.
Through direct outreach, as well as with trusted advocates such as the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction Canada (CHAIR), we are continuing to work with government to establish standards and recommendations for the greater use of antimicrobial copper in all new healthcare facility projects, as well as in major public infrastructure.
Teck also continues to build public knowledge and understanding of the use of copper through profiling our major partnership project and providing public information about the benefits of antimicrobial copper through videos and social media content as well as contributions to major publications.
Copper & Health in Teck Offices
Teck is enhancing its measures to protect the health and safety of its workforce but installing antimicrobial copper across its sites. This includes its corporate offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Santiago, as well as all of its our North American operating sites.
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 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 have now expanded the installation in Teck offices across our operating areas, identifying the most impactful upgrades to help keep our people safer from the spread of infection.
World Health 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)