jyl_gw

Counters That Are Good For You: Antimicrobial

John Liu
9 years ago

An interesting article about a countertop material that is, potentially, actually good for you.

http://mobile.reuters.com/regional/article/idAFN1E7600JD20110701?edition=af

''NEW YORK, July 1 (Reuters) - Antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care units (ICU) kill 97 percent of bacteria that can cause hospital-acquired infections, according to preliminary results of a multisite clinical trial in the United States.

The results also showed a 40 percent reduction in the risk of acquiring an infection.

The study, presented at the World Health Organization's 1st International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, backed what research teams at three U.S. hospitals suggested four years ago: replacing the most heavily contaminated touch surfaces in ICUs with antimicrobial copper will control bacteria growth and cut down on infection rates.''

As far as I know, antimicrobial copper counters, handles, pulls, etc need not be pure copper such as the gorgeous but oxidation-prone copper sheet sometimes used for artisanal kitchen counters. The EPA recognizes several different copper alloys, containing at least 60% copper, as antimicrobial. Hospitals won't tolerate brown oxidized-looking surfaces in their ICUs.

I am not sure where to source this stuff. Maybe you need to find out where architects and builders get medical building hardware. Any links?

Comments (28)

  • leela4
    9 years ago

    Is this a possibility?

    http://www.ipmx.com/micro/micro.html

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    And a FAQ that addressed various questions I had.

    Perhaps I just have copper on the brain. I've been wiring my workshop, which involves rolls of solid copper wire as thick as #6. Pretty stuff. Costly stuff.

    Here is a link that might be useful: More info

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  • John Liu
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    Interesting - so it can look just like stainless steel. (. . . mental wheels turning . . . )

  • NatalieChantal
    9 years ago

    Fascinating! Copper countertops, anyone?

  • formerlyflorantha
    9 years ago

    How likely is it that your kitchen countertops are infecting your family, now really? Well, perhaps if you're all sick all the time or if you're working with some really nasty food specimens frequently.

    Now hospital surfaces are another matter. Not much comparison to the common home kitchen countertop. Much more likely to encounter and transfer some nasty microbes in hospitals.

    If I had a chronic patient at home who had a communicable disease, it might be wise. Otherwise sounds like propaganda by the copper industry.

    Makes me think of all those commercials for toilet cleaners. Toilet bowl cleanliness is mostly just a state of mind, an aesthetic and a fear issue. How sick do most of us get from a dirty toilet bowl, really? Vinegar works just fine and it's cheap and ubiquitous and is less likely to affect the Dead Zone in the Gulf. No Tidy Bowl inserts to put into landfill either.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    I admit to having always felt that being exposed to germs is good for you. My dad didn't believe in bandages, rather preferring to lecture me about the virtues of packing childhood cuts with good clean dirt. In places like Mexico and Indonesia I ate everything including scary food cart stuff and local ceviche. We don't use anti-microbial hand cleanser or soap.

    On the other hand, I have been learning about food contamination and am sad to know that your average supermarket chicken has a good chance of being contaminated with harmful bacteria - and there is a pretty fair chance that those are antibiotic-resistant versions of those bugs.

    ''ScienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2011) � Drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium linked to a wide range of human diseases, are present in meat and poultry from U.S. grocery stores at unexpectedly high rates, according to a nationwide study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

    Nearly half of the meat and poultry samples -- 47 percent -- were contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those bacteria -- 52 percent -- were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study published April 15 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.''

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110415083153.htm

    So I have been giving a bit more thought to food safety. I don't buy ground meat - I grind beef cuts at home. I work harder to be hygienic during chicken prep. Etc.

    The idea of hardware and surfaces that look nice while killing nasties is interesting. Hey, maybe a copper alloy toilet seat - or would it be too cold?

  • roarah
    9 years ago

    I agree we are becoming to sterile as a society. We kill the good bacteria(flora) with the bad and it may be why we are seeing an increase in allergies... but Florantha got me thinking that a copper toilet bowl might just be self cleaning:)And if you felt the need to clean it the vinegar would shine it right up.

  • mrshanson1
    9 years ago

    On Kitchen Impossible (DIY network), they have used copper on some countertop island situations. I am positive of it. Then he would rub ketchup on it to give it a good patina. So...it is possible. They have also used copper for cabinets that adjoin a fireplace on another show on HGTV (Money Hunters). It was a show that they changed an attaced garage into a family room. Copper has been done, and it looks great!

    However, if you like stainless steel countertops, you would like copper countertops. I'm sure it scratches though.

  • writersblock (9b/10a)
    9 years ago

    >Copper has been done, and it looks great!

    It's been done here and it does look great! Some links in the thread below.

    Here is a link that might be useful: copper countertops

  • NatalieChantal
    9 years ago

    Well, florantha, given that the filthiest item in the house - far worse than the toilet- is the dish sponge, I'd say your countertops are quite likely to be an excellent source of contamination. I read an article a few years ago about a lady who took samples of various areas in her house to be analyzed (Q-Tip swabs; the article was trying to illustrate how germy various surfaces can be, even when they seem clean). The kitchen counter was by FAR the worse, in a home with a self-described OCD mom.

    I do agree that in general, we are becoming too sterile and germ paranoid. But kitchens and bathrooms are two areas that I think SHOULD be as sterile as possible, due to the nature of the activities and possibilities for cross-contamination. Copper kitchen counters would be awesome to help that. It's when EVERYTHING "has" to be antibacterial, nothing can be shared due to germ concerns, and dirt is seen is scary, that I draw the line. Nothing wrong with some dirt and germ exposure, that's what strengthens our systems (except for unusual circumstances of course). But letting food get dirty does not fall into that category, food prep should always be as clean as possible.

    Anyway, I doubt this is a conspiracy from the copper companies. That copper is antibacterial is not something made up just because it makes copper more appealing.

  • Circus Peanut
    9 years ago

    Ahh. Thank you Johnliu, I always appreciate new grist for my copper proselytizing mill. I shall put up a new sign on the kitchen door: "MRSA need not apply."

    I'm glad about this in particular:
    Q: Does oxidation (darkening) deter copper's antimicrobial effect?
    A: No. In fact, studies show that as uncoated copper, brass and bronze surfaces oxidise, or darken, they become more effective at eliminating disease-causing bacteria.

    I've wondered whether the patina somehow compromises this quality, so it's good to know it doesn't. If one is concerned about such things. (Of course, I myself keep house like a drunken frat boy; it's my partner who's the rampant germophobe. He will be even more smug now, here in Casa Role Reversal.)

    I wonder whether the oxidation/patina issue is what's kept copper from being more popular in hospital settings? Keeping pure copper shiny takes an awful lot of polishing, unlike stainless steel. I wonder how the various alloys behave in that respect.

    For the homeowner, unless you go vintage, it's very hard to locate solid copper or even thickly plated copper hardware (knobs, pulls, hinges, faucets etc). And any modern copper pieces are inevitably either too thinly plated or else lacquered, which rather defeats the antimicrobial purpose. I wanted hardware that would patina along with the counter, and ultimately wound up on eBay for my vintage solid copper cabinet knobs.

    Folks are likely very sick of tedious photos of my countertops, but you can find pics of them scattered throughout the forum. My inspirations were fellow gardenweb members aliceinwonderland and claybabe, both of whom have gorgeous copper counters.

  • lavender_lass
    9 years ago

    NatalieChantal- I saw something similar a few years back...I think on the Today show. They had someone cut up a chicken and put it in the skillet, on the stove (in their demo kitchen). Then, they used a special light to go around and show all the places, where the chicken had been tracked around the kitchen. On the fridge handle, the sink handles, the garbage lid, the countertop around the chicken prep area, etc. Then they said...if you don't wash your hands frequently during prepping and wash down all sufaces immediately after prep...this is what's traveling around your home!

    While I think people do go overboard with anti-bacterial soaps, etc...when you do have a cut or are making salad after chicken...take the time to carefully clean all surfaces. The copper sounds like a good idea, especially living on a farm, with barn kitties, horses, natural fertilizer in the garden...well, you get the idea :)

    Circuspeanut- Please post your pictures, again! If some people have seen them before, they can scroll past them...but I think it would be helpful to see some copper countertops, in a thread about copper countertops.

  • NatalieChantal
    9 years ago

    Circuspeanut, remember there are lots of newer folks like me on the forum who would LOVE to see your beautiful copper counters, no matter how many times we've found them by searching! Please feel free, and thanks for letting us know who else has them. I've been very tempted by the idea myself, and wondered where you found the hardware to match.

    Also to consider are solid copper sinks like those by Rachiele. I drool over them... But he is vey much against 50/50 sinks and those are the ones I love. Not to mention I wouldn't be able to afford any counters at all if I invested in such a sink!

  • NatalieChantal
    9 years ago

    LL, we posted at the same time.... That is a great point about living on a farm (or in my case, the country - no livestock yet, though we had chickens for awhile) and having so much exposure to, uh, "natural fertilizers". It would be nice to have counters that helped cut down all those bacteria right by our food.

    Yes, please post pictures circuspeanut! And also please let us know how you maintain them, and what you avoid for them - any problems with acidic substances?

  • marcolo
    9 years ago

    I don't think pure copper would look right in my post-Craftsman, early-Deco vision. But this is pretty interesting:
    Q Is it just pure copper that has an antimicrobial effect?

    A No, copper alloys do too. Tests have been performed on pure copper, high coppers, brasses, bronzes, copper-nickels and copper-nickel-zincs. The latter are sometimes referred to as nickel silvers because of their shiny white color, even though they contain no silver.

    Yes, people can go crazy with antimicrobial stuff, but also remember the food supply has become significantly more dangerous than it was when I was a kid. Unlaquered brass hardware, here I come?

  • alwaysfixin
    9 years ago

    A bit of a sidebar - I wish TV remotes could be copper-clad. Supposedly TV remotes are the most germ-laden item in the house (people tend to pick them up straight away after a bathroom break). Don't touch the ones in hotel rooms. Really. While hotel housekeeping may be meticulous, the TV remote is usually not part of the hotel cleaning schedule.

    Back to kitchens - I am of the camp that we are too worried about being antibacterial in the kitchen. Those antibacterial soaps are doing a disservice by killing the good bacteria along with the bad, and creating resistant bacteria. When I think back to how my mother worked in the kitchen when I was a kid--our kitchen looked clean, but my mother hardly gave bacteria a thought. We as kids didn't have the ear infections and the allergies that children do today, not sure if there is a connection or not.

  • pharaoh
    9 years ago

    I am anti-anti-microbial (for daily life)...

    We are creating our own superbugs.

  • marcolo
    9 years ago

    There was just a letter in the paper about someone living with their elderly mother, who refused to follow any modern kitchen hygiene practices because she had never made anyone sick while raising her children. Several people in the house had repeatedly gotten food-borne illnesses. Her mother refused to recognize that factory-farmed food and global imports from countries with minimal health inspections had changed the picture dramatically. That said, I will not personally be buying Silestone.

  • blfenton
    9 years ago

    Marcolo - why won;t you buy silestone? Just a question, not an opening to do the counter debate. (I have granite.)

  • chocolatebunny
    9 years ago

    I too won't buy Silestone. Why do you need Microban, the chemical that is put on Silestone to make it antibacterial, if the counter is not pourous? And, Microban supposedly does not kill any of the bacteria that causes food borne illness anyway. If you google Microban, there are many articles that state that the jury is basically still out on the safety of this product.

    All these "anti microbial" products are unnecessary. All you need to do is wash your hands properly and practice good hygiene (i.e. cleaning counters after working with raw meat). I agree with Pharoh - we are indeed creating our own superbugs.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    I am not convinced the typical home cook washes enough to control cross-contamination.

    ''Comparative tests were conducted with nonpathogenic Escherichia coli and Lactobacillus casei and L. casei was chosen as the safe tracer organism. Salads containing chicken breast fillet contaminated with a known number of C. jejuni and L. casei were prepared according to different cross-contamination scenarios and contamination levels of salads were determined. Cross-contamination could be strongly reduced when cleaning cutting board and cutlery with hot water (68 degrees C), but generally was not prevented using consumer-style cleaning methods for hands and cutting board.
    CONCLUSIONS:
    Dish-washing does not sufficiently prevent cross-contamination, thus different cutting boards for raw meat and other ingredients should be used and meat-hand contact should be avoided or hands should be thoroughly cleaned with soap. Lactobacillus casei can be used as a safe tracer organism for C. jejuni in consumer observational studies.''

    Link is below.

    Proper handwashing is something like 20 seconds of scrubbing with soap and 100F water, then rinsing well, then thorough drying - like a one minute process. The cursory wash that is often done - doesn't reduce bacteria very much. http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/rl_dsl/training/focusPDFs/108&206Powell.pdf

    I'm not really a germophobe. The opposite, actually.

    I was, rather, thinking about ''how we think about'' counters. We spend a lot of time obsessing over the aesthetic aspects of countertop materials, significantly less time talking about their functional aspects, and there is almost no discussion of their food safety aspects. It came to me that maybe counters can be about more than pretty and movement and veining and other jewelry qualities. Killing the antibiotic-resistant harmful bacteria that are in almost 25% of the meat and poultry we buy in the modern supermarket, might be a start.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Study

  • John Plant
    5 years ago

    FIRST OFF NEIGHSAYERS: Copper is NOT antibacterial! IT IS ANTIMICROBIAL! This means it has a natural ability to kill bacteria and viruses by natural means. IT DOES NOT AID IN THE CREATION OF SUPERBUGS! IN FACT it kills superbugs like mrsa and ecoli and salmonella etc which is why it is recommended for hospitals!

    SILVER, ZINC, COPPER, BRASS, ALL have antimicrobial properties that have been known since Roman times and before! Water tanks used to be silvered inside because of its ability to naturally aid in water purification. Having a copper or zinc roof with a rainwater collection system is a great aid in purifying the water for potable use. THESE ARE NOT MAN MADE ANTIBACTERIAL MATERIALS OR COATINGS THAT DO CREATE MORE ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT STRAINS! This is a natural material that we should be using rather than the man made products. Colloidal Silver creams are sold over the counter that are a inexpensive way of curing rashes from the fungus that causes ringworm, as well as MRSA and an incredible ongoing list of malladies! So b4 you neigh say these products do some research instead of posting your knee jerk misinformation! :)

  • lisa_a
    5 years ago

    You don't need to shout, aka type in caps, to get your point across (on a 4+ yr old thread).

    btw, it's naysayers, not neighsayers. Unless you're telling us that we talk like horses. =)

  • John Plant
    5 years ago

    BTW Beeswax and Honey also have antimicrobial properties! Sealing your Copper counters with beeswax not only helps prevent discoloration if you dislike that look but also add another layer of protection. Beeswax candles actually kill pollutants in the air when burning! Honey on a sore throat helps sooth, coat and protect but also kill the germs causing the illness as well. Consuming beeswax and honey has also been discovered to be a good protectant of the human liver!

  • Buehl
    5 years ago

    JohnPlant - you do know this thread is over 4 years old, right? Please don't bump old threads like this - no one on this thread needs your help. Other people who do need help today are bumped off the first couple of pages when these old threads are resurrected for no good reason - like this one.

  • John Plant
    5 years ago
    I think when people are looking for information and doing a search and find that a lot of unnecessary misinformation is out there there is nothing wrong with correcting the information!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so do not admonish me for reopening and replying to any thread, that is arrogant! If you refute my information that is one thing but otherwise it is quite irrelevant how old this post is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • John Plant
    5 years ago
    Lisa it is quite irrelevant how old this thread is!! And yes I will yell if ignorant comments about copper creating super bugs are being dispersed! obviously if two of you people are already upset that I've posted on here and it causes you some sort of discomfort the post is still quite relevant! If I found it doing a search to get some info others can as well and the age of the original posting is in no wah shape or form irrelevant or unimportant. Buell if others are making uninformed judgements on here that spread rumor they should be bumped!