Teck battles virus with copper in Chile
Championing copper's antimicrobial properties for healthcare Metal Tech News – December 2, 2020
Last updated 12/1/2020 at 6:46pm
Continuing its initiative to bring copper to the frontlines in the urgent fight against the spread of bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19, Teck Resources Ltd. announced the expansion of its Copper and Health program to Chile, partnering with leading national health professionals and academics on a pilot project at the Iquique Hospital.
Research has shown that copper alloy surfaces are naturally antimicrobial and are imbued with self-sanitizing properties, with up to 99.9% of harmful bacteria and viruses that cause infection being eliminated, including bacteria with high antibiotic resistance.
Teck is funding a pilot project being carried out by the Universidad del Desarrollo and Núcleo Milenio MICROB-R in Chile into copper surfaces and textiles' ability to decrease the incidence of healthcare-associated infections.
"It is an honor for Teck to launch our Copper & Health program now in Chile, partnering with leading national health professionals and academics in this first research at the Iquique Hospital," said Amparo Cornejo, vice president of sustainability and corporate affairs, Teck Chile. "Which will increase understanding of the efficacy of copper and its antimicrobial characteristics helping to reduce in-hospital infection in our country."
Teck has already installed copper-infused high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, counters, bedrails, light switches, and railings across more than 300 healthcare facilities in 26 countries.
These copper-infused surfaces and equipment have been strategically placed in emergency rooms, intensive care units, medical and surgical centers, and other high-risk areas to make hospitals safer for patients, employees, and visitors.
"While this progress is promising, we are still in the very early stages of adopting copper for infection prevention," Teck Resources President and CEO Don Lindsay penned in an article published by Metal Tech News in July. "As a major copper producer with an abundance of mineral resources and mining expertise, Canada can help lead a global shift towards the use of copper surfaces both in healthcare, as well as the surfaces we all touch every day, to help save lives."
While Teck is a major copper producer, the extremely small amount of copper needed to make hospitals more bacteria and virus resistant offers no commercial benefit to the Canada-based mining company.
Instead of any kind of monetary gain, Teck's Copper and Health program aims to make communities safer by reducing healthcare-associated and publicly-transmitted infections, as well as raising awareness about the important role that mining and metals play in everyday lives.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, one in 31 hospital patients becomes infected with healthcare-associated infections, costing as much as $50,000 per patient. These infections picked up in hospital settings are one of the leading causes of death annually for many countries and result in costs soaring into the billions of dollars per year.
A Teck-supported study at the Vancouver Coastal Hospital confirmed copper's durability and infection control benefits in a hospital setting, showing the effectiveness of using copper to kill unwanted bacteria and viruses, thus demonstrating that it can be used to combat the spread of diseases such as COVID-19.
The cost of installing antimicrobial copper in a hospital can be recouped in less than two months as a result of savings found through a significant reduction in patient infections and reduced length of hospital stay, according to York Health Economics Consortium.
Results from the pilot project being carried out at the Regional Hospital of Iquique are expected in the second half of 2021.
Teck Resources President and CEO Don Lindsay's July column on the Copper and Health program can be read at Copper has a role in battling COVID 19 in the July 29 edition of Metal Tech News.