Installation of Antimicrobial Copper™ in Brazilian airport sees dramatic reduction in residual bacterial contamination levels
Architects and designers have been privy to the antimicrobial properties of copper touch surfaces for many years, often installing such surfaces in hospitals and medical centres to reduce transference of harmful bacteria between staff, visitors and patients. In a break from tradition, Congonhas Airport in São Paulo, Brazil has just upgraded its handrails, counter tops and elevator guardrails to Antimicrobial Copper™ with shocking results.
Since installing the systems in December 2011, airport staff have reported a dramatic reduction in residual bacterial contamination levels, with less than 10 colony forming units (CFUs) per sq cm discovered on the copper touch surfaces. The equivalent areas in stainless steel may rank as high as 800 CFUs. Scientific testing has uncovered a variety of bacteria that have a 1% survival chance past the two hour mark on Antimicrobial Copper™, including E. coli O157:H7 and Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus faecalis.
The science behind Antimicrobial Copper™ is simple and twofold. Firstly, there is basic interaction between the metal surface and the bacterium which can break the latter’s outer membrane. Secondly, this membrane can be punctured causing a loss of nutrients and fluid. It is thought that this occurs through a ‘short-circuiting’ as the stable electrical micro-current of the bacterium comes into contact with a copper surface, weakening the outer membrane.
Congonhas Airport has inserted a number of Antimicrobial Copper™ elements into its new parking areas - which cater to 4,000 vehicles and 10,000 passengers each day - and is already reaping the benefits. Antimicrobial Copper™ explains: “It helps that copper also looks great, but the fact that it can continually fight germs - in between normal cleaning procedures - is getting more attention from public transport authorities. The decision by the Brazilian airport follows the introduction of copper handrails in the subway system in Santiago in Chile early last year.”