Development Background:  The CDC has provided that respiratory pathogens n respirator surfaces can potentially be transferred by touch to the wearer's hands and thus risk causing infection through subsequent touching of the mucous membranes of the face (i.e., self-inoculation).  Studies have shown that some respiratory pathogens remain infectious on respirator surfaces for extended periods of time, in microbial transfer and reaerosolization studies, more than 99.8% have remained trapped on the respirator after handling or following simulated cough or sneeze.

Respirators might also become contaminated with other pathogens acquired from patients who are co-infected with common healthcare pathogens that have prolonged environmental survival (e.g., methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, Clostridium difficile, norovirus, etc.).  These organisms could then contaminate the wearer, and in turn be transmitted via self-inoculation or to others via direct or indirect contact transmission.

Studies have shown that antimicrobial copper-alloy touch surfaces can prevent frequently touched surfaces from serving as reservoirs for the spread of pathogenic microbes.  This is especially true in areas where harmful viruses, bacteria, and fungi colonize and persist.

The surfaces of copper are antimicrobial.  They have an inherent ability to kill a wide range of harmful microbes relatively rapidly - often within two hours or less - and with a high degree of efficiency.  These antimicrobial properties have been demonstrated by an expensive body of research.  The research suggests that if touch surfaces and made with copper alloys, that reduce transmission of disease-causing organisms can reduce patient infections by as much as 58%.

On February 29, 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the registrations of five different groups of copper alloys as "antimicrobial materials" with public health benefits.  The EPA registrations now cover 479 different compositions of copper alloys within six groups.  All of the alloys have minimum nominal copper concentrations of 60%.  The result of the EPA-supervised antimicrobial studies demonstrating copper's strong antimicrobial efficacies across a wide range of alloys have been published.

Statement of Facts:

  • Coronavirus persists in an infectious state on common surface materials for several days.

  • Rapid inactivation of human coronavirus occurs on brass and copper nickel surfaces at room temperature (21*C).

  • Copper ion release and generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) are invovled in inactivation of HuCoV-229E on copper and copper alloy surfaces.

  • ​Inactivation of coronavirus on copper and copper alloy surfaces results in fragmentation of the viral genome, ensuring that inactivation is irreversible.​

  • Exposure to copper surfaces results in morphological changes to human coronavirus particles visible in transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

    • Testing revealed there was a significant difference in appearance between purified HuCoV-229E exposed to stainless steel and that exposed to copper surfaces.  On stainless steel, uniform virions were visible following a 10-min exposure, but on copper, clumps of damaged virus particles, as well as a few intact particles could be seen.  The extent of damage increased upon further exposure.

  • New research from the University of Southampton has found that copper can effectively help to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, which are linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrom (MERS).

    • Animal coronaviruses that 'host jump' to humans, such as SARS and MERS, result in severe infections with high mortality.  The Southampton researchers found that closely-related human coronavirus -- 299E -- can remain infectious on common surface materials for several days, but is rapidly destroyed on copper.​

Technical References:

  1. Cassandra D. Salgado, Kent A. Sepkowitz, Joseph F. John, J. Robert Cantey, Hubert H. Attaway, Katherine D. Freeman, Peter A. Sharpe, Harold T. Michels, Michael G. Schmidt (2013); "Copper Surfaces Reduce the Rate of Healthcare-Acquired Infections in the Intensive Care Unit"; Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, May 2013

  2. Jump up to: a b "Copper Surfaces Reduce the Rate of Health Care-Acquired Infections in the ICU"; April 9, 2013; Science News,

  3. "EPA registers copper-containing alloy products", May 2008

  4. "EPA registers copper-containing alloy products", May 2008

  5. Collery, Ph., Maymard, I., Theophanides, T., Khassanova, L., and Collery, T., Editors, Metal Ions in Biology and Medicine: Vol. 10., John Libbey Eurotext, Paris, 2008; Antimicrobial regulatory efficiency testing of solid copper alloy surfaces in the U.S., by Michels, Harold T. and Anderson, Douglas G. (2008), pp. 185-190.

  6. Human Coronavirus 229E Remains Infectious on Common Touch Surface Materials: American Society of Microbiology.

  7. University of Southampton 2015