Building uses copper to kill germs

October 23, 2009 9:08:51 AM PDT
A germ-free building in Friendswood is being touted as the next best thing. The office may have a better handle on stopping viruses like swine flu, and it's all thanks to a copper-based coating on door handles. "Anything that has this copper color has copper coating we're talking about," said Jeff Mickler.

A walk through Jeff Mickler's office is a step into a germ-reduced zone. What at first looks like fashionable fixtures are actually copper coated.

"Oh, it's wonderful. It's a very cost-effective solution to an issue. We are firmly behind it. We know it works," said Mickler.

Mickler calls it 'touch technology.' By covering high-contact surface areas with copper, he says he's reducing the spread of infectious diseases like swine flu.

"The surface allows that not to grow but actually deplete or kill it over time and what we've seen initially in the two hour or less range is killing 99 percent of the stuff that hits it," said Mickler.

The copper coating is on faucets, handles and every other surface that's regularly touched including toilet seats.

There are studies on copper and its effects on stopping the spread of germs being conducted at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Michael Schmidt heads that research.

"Metallic copper does have the ability to kill a wide variety of bacteria and viruses like swine flu," said Dr. Schmidt. "However, eight out of 10 infections are spread by human to human contact, and the best way to reduce that risk is washing your hands."

Copper may make for cleaner surfaces, but it's not cheap. So Mickler's coating system uses only about 65 percent copper to bring down the cost. Outfitting his 5,000 square foot building cost $5,000 and he says required only a little work.

"It's 10 millimeters thick, so it's very, very small and its design worked very tough so you're not recoating it many times. Once you do it once, you should be able to leave it forever," said Mickler.

He also says the real savings though comes from a healthier environment and increase in productivity. How does he know? In the past year, he says only one employee has called in sick.

Mickler's company builds mostly medical facilities. He hopes the copper coating will be used in schools, churches and other high occupancy buildings.

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