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Copper and Health Care

Harmful bacteria exist on commonly touched surfaces including railings, handles and doorknobs. Some people may not realize that copper has unique antimicrobial properties and is proven to continuously kill bacteria that cause infection. It’s also naturally occurring, 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.

Copper surfaces eliminate up to 99.9% of harmful bacteria within two hours without needing any special maintenance or processes, making it a simple and effective preventative measure. To date, antimicrobial copper has been installed in more than 300 healthcare facilities in 26 countries in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia.

Health-care facilities are especially high transmission areas for bacterial infections. Health care-acquired infections (HAIs) often spread when one infected person touches and contaminates surfaces, such as door handles, push buttons and equipment.

Infections result in prolonged hospital stays, increased costs for the health-care system, a rise in antibiotic resistance and unnecessary deaths. More than 200,000 patients will contract an infection while receiving care in Canada annually, and 8,000 of these patients will die as a result.

British Columbia produces over half of Canada’s total copper and was the world’s eighth-largest producer in 2016. Canada has the world’s 10th-largest copper reserves, most of which are in B.C.

Major copper producers in British Columbia are participating in efforts to raise awareness and make it easier to install copper surfaces in health-care facilities worldwide. Copper producer 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.

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

Copper is also very important for clean technologies and electric vehicles. Read our blog on the crossover between mining and clean tech. To stay current with future opportunities and news about trade and investment in British Columbia, follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.