The History of Copper

Before it was recognized that microorganisms existed, citizens of the early Roman Empire used copper piping to improve public hygiene. They observed that water delivered through copper was safe to drink and that copper  utensils and cookware helped to prevent the spread of disease. Much later, after microbes were discovered and the germ theory of infection linked bacteria and other microorganisms to infection and disease, scientists began to understand how copper’s antimicrobial properties could be harnessed to provide additional benefits. Today, the antimicrobial uses of copper have been expanded to include fungicides, pesticides, antifouling paints, antimicrobial medicines, oral hygiene products, hygienic medical devices, antiseptics and sinks for the kitchen and bath environment.

You Cannot Live Without It

Copper is one of a relatively small group of metallic elements which are essential to human health. These elements, along with amino and fatty acids as well as vitamins, are required for normal metabolic processes. However, as the body can not synthesize copper, the human diet must supply regular amounts for absorption.

Do You Get Enough?

Until recently, it was generally believed that most people consumed adequate quantities of copper. However, modern research has shown that only 25% of the U.S. population consume the amount of copper a day estimated to be adequate by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. It is now recommended to have a minimum daily intake of 1.2 mg/day of copper for adults.

Copper In Medicine

Copper has been used as a medicine for thousands of years including the treatment of chest wounds and the purifying of drinking water. More recently, research has indicated that copper helps prevent inflammation in arthritis and similar diseases. Recent scientific investigations have also demonstrated the efficacy of copper to inactivate (kill) harmful microbes. These include L. pneumophila, the principal agent of Legionnaire’s disease, methicillin-resistant Staphyloccous aureus (the deadly pathogen that has become a primary concern for health care administrators), E. coli (a food and waterborne bacterium that causes severe illness and death) and Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that originates in soil and water and is spread during food handling. The colonization of such harmful microbes has been shown to be 2.1 times greater with glass and 3.0 times greater with stainless steel when compared to copper products. E. coli has shown to remain viable on stainless steel surfaces in excess of four and a half hours, while E. coli is completely dead within 75 minutes of contact with a copper surface.

All facts and figures are taken directly and indirectly from the Copper
Development Association available at www.copper.org/health


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