Copper Element and Its Antimicrobial Properties


Copper (Cu) is a metal found in natural deposits such as ores and is widely used in household plumbing materials and various industrial applications. If you are interested in buying copper and other metals online then you can visit Copper and copper alloys have been used for many years to handle water and seawater. The addition of nickel to the copper element improves the strength, wear, erosion and corrosion resistance. Copper-nickel alloys with 10% and 30% nickel are used widely for heat exchangers and seawater pipework, retaining the resistance to marine fouling, which is displayed by copper. Humans can handle proportionally large concentrations of copper, but health problems are sure to appear in this case.

EPA’s Drinking Water Regulations for the Copper Element

The Safe Drinking Water Act passed by Congress in 1974 requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. Maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs) are non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety. Contaminants are considered to be any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water. If you’re unsure about having these things in your house, you should speak to a plumber (like Nance Services, for instance) to help you decide what is safe and what may not be in your home.

EPA has set the MCLG level of protection for copper at 1.3 mg/L or 1.3 ppm, based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems.

Does Copper Have Any Health Effects?

Copper in excess of the action level may cause gastrointestinal distress with short-term exposure, and liver or kidney damage with long-term exposure. We absorb eminent quantities of copper each day by drinking, breathing and eating and the absorption of copper is necessary, as it is a trace element that is essential for human health.

Exposure to copper through breathing is negligible because copper concentrations in air are usually quite low. People who live in houses that still have copper plumbing and have not had them changed out by a plumber (Paul The Plumber) are exposed to higher levels of copper than people who do not have copper plumbing, because copper is released into their drinking water through the corrosion of the pipes. Other effects of copper exposure include:

  • headaches
  • stomach aches
  • irritation of the nose, mouth and eyes
  • metal fume fever
  • atrophic changes in nasal mucous membranes (industrial exposure to copper fumes/dust/mists)
  • Wilson’s Disease (chronic copper poisoning): hepatic cirrhosis, brain damage, demyelization, renal disease, copper deposition in the cornea

When copper ends up in soil, it strongly attaches to organic matter and minerals. It hardly ever enters groundwater, but in surface water it can travel great distances, either suspended on sludge particles or as free ions. Polluted farmland soils are particularly dangerous for animals, as they will absorb concentrations that are damaging to their health. Sheep suffer a great deal from copper poisoning.

Copper in Drinking Water

The major sources of copper in drinking water are the corrosion of household plumbing systems and the erosion of natural deposits. Pipes, fixtures, faucets and fittings can also be a source. The amount of copper in your drinking water depends on these 6 factors:

  • the types of minerals in the water
  • the amounts of minerals in the water
  • how long the water stays in pipes
  • the water’s acidity
  • the water’s temperature

We cannot see, taste or smell copper dissolved in water, so testing the water is the only sure way of telling whether there are harmful quantities of lead in your drinking water. You should test your water if your home has copper pipes and you notice the following signs:

  • frequent leaks
  • rust-colored water
  • signs of corrosion
  • stained dishes or laundry

One of the ways to do this is to hire a professional plumber from reputed companies like Queens Charlotte Plumbing to check for copper content in your water. There could be many reasons for high copper concentration in water, and these queen charlotte plumbing experts might just be the people who could find a solution to your problem.

Antimicrobial Properties of Copper

Copper and its alloys are natural antimicrobial materials and its antimicrobial properties are still under active investigation. According to a comprehensive literature, technology and patent search that traced the history of understanding the “bacteriostatic and sanitizing properties of copper and copper alloy surfaces”, which was conducted in 1973, demonstrated that copper, in very small quantities, has the power to control a wide range of molds, fungi, harmful microbes and algae. In concentrations above 10g/L, copper inhibits:

  • Actinomucor elegans
  • Aspergillus niger
  • Bacterium linens
  • Bacillus megaterium
  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Brevibacterium erythrogenes
  • Candida utilis
  • Penicillium chrysogenum
  • Rhizopus niveus
  • Saccharomyces mandshuricus
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Other observations from the research that are noteworthy:

  • Achromobacter fischeri and Photobacterium phosphoreum growth is inhibited by metallic copper
  • Candida utilis is completely inhibited at 0.04 g/L copper concentrations
  • Paramecium caudatum cell division is reduced by copper plates placed on Petri dish covers containing infusoria and nutrient media
  • Poliovirus is inactivated within 10 minutes of exposure to copper with ascorbic acid
  • Tubercle bacillus is inhibited by copper as simple cations or complex anions in concentrations from 0.02 to 0.2 g/L

An abundance of peer-reviewed antimicrobial efficiency studies plus others directed by the EPA in the past 10 years resulted in the 2008 registration of 274 different copper alloys as certified antimicrobial materials that have public health benefits. There is a variety of techniques used to disinfect fluids and surfaces. Dime Water can provide the following water treatment solutions for disinfection:

  • chemical feed system feeding chlorine or hydrogen peroxide
  • ultra filtration
  • UV
  • reverse osmosis
  • ozone

Call us today at 760.734.5787 to learn more about the copper alloys and their applications in the water treatment industry.


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