Before Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered the existence of bacteria in humans in 1863, diseases were thought to be caused by bad air from stinky trash and rotten meat. People long ago believed that as long as they don’t inhale this bad air, they won’t get sick. When it was proven that bacteria is indeed the primary culprit of most illnesses, no one felt safe anymore. Everyone started to become too anxious, especially when making contact with commonly touched surfaces at home or in public places, such as door knobs and handrails.
Until it was confirmed that some types of bacteria are actually good for the health (some even living inside the body to fight off bad bacteria) and when antibiotic drugs were introduced, the unease continued. Surprisingly, even with these advancements many still find themselves at the mercy of illness caused by harmful microorganisms. Thankfully, there are more than a couple of ways to deal with germs. One of these is using certain types of metal.
Metals that Kill Bacteria
Some non-ferrous metals, or those that do not contain or are not bonded with iron, have antimicrobial properties. They are able to not just repel bacteria but actually kill them. These metals include silver, copper, aluminum, zinc, brass, bronze, tin, and silicon. An experiment conducted by researchers from the University of Swaziland’s Physics department on the effectiveness of these metals in combating coliform bacteria revealed that the metals are indeed capable of killing bacteria. It was also revealed that copper, silver, and zinc have the highest rate of destruction caused to the coliforms.
The antimicrobial properties of these metals are mainly due to the oligodynamic effect, a phenomenon that triggers the death or deactivation of bacteria as a result of exposure to metal ions. While the exact mechanism of this effect is still unknown, there have been many studies that confirm the denaturing effect of metal ions on the protein content of bacteria, which then leads to their demise. Some studies suggest that the metal ions merge with DNA and cellular enzymes and shut them down as well.
The discovery of this unique property has made copper alloys and zinc a staple in water storage and distribution systems where sanitation is a huge deal. Although silver performs just as effectively as copper, it is much more expensive, which is why it is rarely used for making water pipes and tanks. Copper is more affordable and abundant in supply, too. Its major alloys—brass and bronze—are widely used for making tubes and containers needed in hospitals and agricultural facilities. Brass square tube and fitting products have become more common, eventually reducing the rate of waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea and typhoid.
In residential and commercial facilities, brass and other copper alloys have become a popular addition, too. They are used to cover commonly touched and easily grimed areas, including countertops and railings. They are prized not only for their antimicrobial properties but also for their naturally elegant gloss and color.
If you are planning to equip your space with oligodynamic metals to reduce the risk of sickness in the family, it would definitely help to consult with trusted metal suppliers like Rotax Metals. This way you can be sure of the quality of materials you will be getting. If you need brass tubes for your piping systems, they can easily find the most suitable grade of brass for you.
About Rotax Metals: Rotax Metals is a premier supplier of copper, brass, and bronze products in North America. Apart from that, we also offer special services, such as metal polishing, metal shearing, waterjet cutting, and metal fabrication. If you need custom extrusions, we can help you as well. Whether you are a sculptor looking for the right bronze block for your project or a plumber in need of new oligodynamic metal supplies, we’ve got you covered.
Discovery of bacteria in humans: Sept. 17, 1683, healthcentral.com
Antibacterial properties of some metals and alloys in combating coliforms in contaminated water, academicjournals.org