Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Antibacterial Effects of Brass


If you read the headline of this post and your reaction was something along the lines of, “What?! Is brass antibacterial? No way!”, you’re not alone. Most people have no idea that many metals have antimicrobial properties, but it’s true—and it’s not just brass. Two of the other metals we work with at Atlas Bronze, bronze and copper, are also antibacterial, as is silver and gold. 

Copper: The Key to Brass’s Antibacterial Effect

No, brass isn’t treated with an antibiotic solution or chemical. The reason why brass is antibacterial is because it contains copper.

Copper is actually antimicrobial, which is even better than antibacterial—it means it kills not only bacteria, but also viruses and fungi. Although brass is an alloy that can have different compositions depending on its use, it always contains more copper than any other element, which is why it has the same antimicrobial effect.

Brass has been shown to kill microbes in two hours or less after contact, including 99.9 percent of bacteria. A study that researched the efficacy of copper alloys in reducing the transmission of infectious microbes in a hospital setting found that patient infection rates in intensive care units can be reduced by up to 58 percent and subsequent studies have resulted in similar findings.

Even before being backed up by scientific research, copper and its alloys were understood to have medicinal properties for thousands of years. In ancient times, copper was used to transport water because its quality was better than when other materials were used. We still don’t quite understand what makes copper antimicrobial (although we do have some guesses), but the phenomenon is called the oligodynamic effect.

How Brass Can Be Used to Reduce the Spread of Infection

You might not need your brass bushings to be antibacterial, but ever since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved copper alloys to be marketed as antimicrobial materials, there has been a proliferation of consumer products taking advantage of the natural antimicrobial effects of brass, bronze, and copper. Mobile phone cases, door openers, face masks, and even wallets now boast the addition of copper alloys to reduce the spread of infection.

In addition to consumer goods, copper alloys like brass are being used in businesses and public buildings to limit the spread of harmful pathogens. Hospitals and healthcare facilities, schools, offices, and public transportation providers are using brass for fixtures, handles, knobs, and other high-touch surfaces.

Of course, it’s important to note that not all pathogens are spread through touch—while brass and copper alloys can prevent those diseases that do spread this way, they’re not going to help with infections that are primarily transmitted through inhaling infected aerosols and respiratory droplets. In addition, a pathogen must be in contact with copper for a certain amount of time before being killed—the antibacterial effect of brass is not instantaneous. That said, when used with other infection control measures, copper alloys like brass can play an important role in reducing disease transmission.

Learn More About Antibacterial Brass

If you’d like to learn more about how your business can take advantage of the antibacterial effects of brass, contact Atlas Bronze at 1-800-478-0887 to speak with one of our experts.


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