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The Big Story: Copper’s Virus-Killing Powers

“For thousands of years, long before they knew about germs or viruses, people have known of copper’s disinfectant powers,” writes Jim Morrison in the article “Copper’s Virus-Killing Powers Were Known Even to the Ancients,” featured in the April issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

As COVID-19 was first appearing in headlines, researchers reported that the novel coronavirus can survive for days on glass and stainless steel, but dies within hours on copper. This should come as no surprise.

According to Morrison,  “The first recorded use of copper as an infection-killing agent comes from Smith’s Papyrus, the oldest-known medical document in history….based on information that dates back as far as 3200 B.C.…As far back as 1,600 B.C., the Chinese used copper coins as medication to treat heart and stomach pain as well as bladder diseases. The sea-faring Phoenicians inserted shavings from their bronze swords into battle wounds to prevent infection. For thousands of years, women have known that their children didn’t get diarrhea as frequently when they drank from copper vessels and passed on this knowledge to subsequent generations.”

Did you know that the old railings at New York’s Grand Central Terminal are made of copper. And it’s “still working just like it did the day it was put in over 100 years ago,” says Bill Keevil, a microbiology researcher at the University of Southampton (U.K.). “This stuff is durable and the anti-microbial effect doesn’t go away.”

Even the Environmental Protection Agency agrees and has confirmed numerous copper surfaces as being antimicrobial. 

So, how does it work?

Kevil explains, “Heavy metals including gold and silver are antibacterial, but copper’s specific atomic makeup gives it extra killing power…. Copper has a free electron in its outer orbital shell of electrons that easily takes part in oxidation-reduction reactions (which also makes the metal a good conductor). “

It’s like a “molecular oxygen grenade,” says Michael G. Schmidt, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Schmidt’s research focused on the possible use of copper alloys to reduce hospital infections. 

“On any given day, about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control, costing as much as $50,000 per patient. Schmidt’s landmark study, funded by the Department of Defense, looked at copper alloys on surfaces including bedside rails, tray tables, intravenous poles, and chair armrests at three hospitals around the country. That 43-month investigation revealed a 58 percent infection reduction compared to routine infection protocols.”

The research into harnessing the powers of copper is fascinating, especially as we move through this pandemic. You can read more about it in the complete article on the Smithsonian website, here.


But do these findings translate to copper in other uses?

“If copper kills COVID-19, should you periodically roll a few pennies and nickels around in your hands? Stick with water, soap, and sanitizer. “You never know how many viruses are affiliated with the hand, so it may not completely get them all,” Schmidt says.

In a similar article from the New York Times, “Copper Won’t Save You From Coronavirus,” writer Katherine J. Wo explains:

“Copper on its own is no cure-all — and its effects aren’t instantaneous. It takes about 45 minutes for copper to reduce the amount of virus on a surface by half. “It’s not like it hits the copper and poof, it’s gone…. ”To minimize transmission risk, people should still wash their hands, avoid crowds and maintain a safe distance from one another.”

If not a direct cure, Copper is metaphysically said to support the body’s natural healing process, and is known to stimulate the flow of energy in the body.

 “Copper is a fantastic fashion choice,” said microbiologist Dr. Michael Johnson in Wu’s article. “You’re going to look fabulous. It just might not work the way you think.”

Cure-all or not, Peter Indorf Designs has created some new designs featuring copper, and copper and silver combinations in bracelets, à votre santé!

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