Health & Safety FAQs
What are MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys?
MicroGuard alloys have been developed by combining strong, durable lead-free metals with the active ingredient of copper to produce a broad range of attractive, structurally strong antimicrobial materials that can be used on touch surfaces. Safe to use, MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys are engineered materials with a unique combination of properties that kill 99.9% of harmful bacteria* within two hours of exposure. Download the MicroGuard Antimicrobial Copper Alloy Guide for technical information on the various alloys.
Is MicroGuard a coating?
No, MicroGuard is a solid metal material with inherent antibacterial properties that is registered by the EPA with a public health claim. Public health claims relate to the control of pathogens that pose a significant threat to human health and must be supported by scientific data and testing. Unlike antimicrobial coatings and additives, which cannot make public health claims, MicroGuard antimicrobial properties will not wear away or rub off. The EPA grants an exemption to antimicrobial coatings for non-public-health use that is intended to protect the "treated article" or product itself. Antimicrobial coatings may only make claims related to protection of the article itself against non-specific mold, mildew, and bacteria. The coatings have not been tested and proven to protect people against disease-causing bacteria. MicroGuard is superior in efficacy and durability to antimicrobial coatings.
Why is the EPA registration important?
It's the first time the EPA has recognized solid touch surface materials as having antibacterial properties that support public health claims. This registration established a new standard for evidence-based validation of antimicrobial efficacy. Previously, only sprays, powders, and gases such as disinfectants and sterilizers could make public health claims. The EPA registration allows MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys to make a public health claim regarding efficacy as a result of extensive independent laboratory testing. These health claims show that clean MicroGuard surfaces are capable of killing 99.9% of infectious bacteria* within two hours. The registration also establishes that MicroGuard alloys will not cause any adverse health or environmental effects.
Which bacteria* were tested under EPA-prescribed laboratory testing?
Testing demonstrated effective antibacterial activity against six infection-causing bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli O157:H7, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE).
What is a public health claim?
Under EPA guidelines, a public health claim relates to the elimination of infection-causing organisms that pose a significant threat to human health and must be supported by scientific data and testing.
Which public health claims does the EPA permit MicroGuard to make?
According to the EPA registration, laboratory testing showed that when cleaned regularly:
- MicroGuard surfaces continuously reduce bacterial* contamination, achieving 99.9% reduction within two hours of exposure.
- MicroGuard surfaces killed greater than 99.9% of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria* within two hours of exposure.
- MicroGuard surfaces deliver continuous and ongoing antibacterial* action, remaining effective in killing greater than 99.9% of bacteria* within two hours.
- MicroGuard surfaces kill greater than 99.9% of bacteria* within two hours and continues to kill more than 99.9% of bacteria* even after repeated contamination.
- MicroGuard surfaces help inhibit the buildup and growth of bacteria* within two hours of exposure between routine cleaning and sanitizing steps.
Which touch surfaces can be made from MicroGuard?
The EPA has registered MicroGuard materials for more than 100 touch surface applications in healthcare, public, commercial, and residential buildings. Some of the applications include hospital bedrails, IV poles, medical carts, faucets, grab bars, handrails, and door hardware. Review EPA registered applications for a complete list.
Why are MicroGuard touch surfaces needed?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) affect 1 out of every 25 hospital inpatients in the USA and cost over $33 billion each year. HAIs kill 205 Americans each and every day. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has started to penalize hospitals for preventable HAIs.
How can MicroGuard touch surfaces benefit the public?
MicroGuard surfaces can reduce disease-causing bacteria* in hospitals and other public buildings. While MicroGuard touch surfaces are not a substitute for good cleaning and disinfection protocols, MicroGuard is an ideal supplement to a multi-faceted approach to combat healthcare and community acquired infections. MicroGuard surfaces continuously reduce microbial burden* in between routine cleaning.
How does MicroGuard kill bacteria*?
Copper is an essential nutrient for humans and all living things. Copper is the active ingredient in MicroGuard alloys. Testing shows that contact with bare copper surfaces:
- Ruptures the cell's outer membrane which causes leakage of vital nutrients and cell death;
- Disturbs osmotic balance in biofilm; and
- Causes oxidative stress by generating hydrogen peroxide.
Are you sure the active ingredient in MicroGuard is safe for humans?
Absolutely, the EPA registration states:
"These products pose no risks to public health; copper has been in use for centuries, and we know of no harm from such use. The products have been rigorously tested and have demonstrated antimicrobial activity. After consulting with independent organizations – the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology and the American Society for Healthcare Environmental Services as well as leading experts in the field, the (EPA) Agency has concluded that the use of these products could provide a benefit as a supplement to existing infection control measures."
How are MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys superior to other antimicrobial materials?
Unlike the many antimicrobial coatings on the market, MicroGuard alloys are solid metal materials with inherent antibacterial properties. MicroGuard antimicrobial properties will not wear away or be rubbed off. The antimicrobial efficacy of MicroGuard materials remains effective for the life of the product. Most of the antimicrobial coatings on the market cannot make a claim that they kill infectious bacteria that is harmful to human health. The EPA grants an exemption for a non-public-health use that is intended to protect the "treated article" or product itself. Most of these products are "treated articles" and are not required to submit efficacy data to the EPA. In fact, "treated articles" may only make claims related to protection of the product itself against non-specific bacteria, mold, or mildew. The EPA has fined some companies for making public health claims without having any scientific evidence that their products are effective in killing bacteria. Click here to review the EPA Notice that explains the differences between public health claims and "treated article" exemptions.
How can MicroGuard materials support evidence based design principles?
The research conducted to obtain EPA registration supports evidence based design. Scientific tests showed that when cleaned regularly, MicroGuard surfaces kill greater than 99.9% of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria* within two hours. Conversely, comparison tests on stainless steel showed bacteria can survive for up to 28 days on stainless steel surfaces. MicroGuard is also sustainable with up to 100% recycled content and can support some green building objectives.
Are there any clinical trial results available on antimicrobial copper?
Government funded clinical trials have been completed at three hospitals in the USA. These trials were designed to compare the efficacy of antimicrobial copper surfaces to the plastic, stainless steel, and aluminum materials commonly used in hospital intensive care units. These trials tracked the bacterial contamination levels in patient rooms that were outfitted with antimicrobial copper surfaces versus existing materials.
Are MicroGuard materials durable enough for healthcare environments?
Absolutely, most of the EPA registered applications are for healthcare surfaces. MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys are corrosion resistant, wear resistant, and can be easily cleaned in accordance with hospital guidelines. These surfaces will not chip or peel. MicroGuard alloys can replace stainless steel in many building and touch surface applications.
Can MicroGuard surfaces be coated or waxed?
No, to ensure antimicrobial efficacy, MicroGuard surfaces cannot be painted, waxed, varnished or coated in any way. The antimicrobial efficacy will last for the life of the product when used as directed.
Will MicroGuard materials change colors over time like copper roofs do?
MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys are approved for interior touch surfaces only so they will not be exposed to the weathering effect of an outdoor environment and will remain color consistent when cleaned regularly and as directed by the label.
Are MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys strong enough to replace the stainless steel used on hospital handrails and grab bars?
Yes, definitely. MicroGuard materials were engineered to replace stainless steel in building applications such as handrails, grab bars, stair rails, countertops, and door hardware to name just a few. For architects and building professionals that want to duplicate the look of stainless steel or chrome surfaces, MicroGuard materials have been developed to match these surfaces with the added benefit of killing 99.9% of harmful bacteria* within two hours. MicroGuard alloys will not react with concrete, glass, plastic, plaster, drywall, rubber, or wood surfaces.
Are MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys available in different finishes and textures?
Yes, MicroGuard finish options include polished, satin, matte, distressed, and antique as well as the typical brushed #4, polished #6, and bright #7 finishes. Textures and amazing architectural effects can be created by polishing, buffing, grinding, etching, stamping, and weaving. Aesthetically, MicroGuard materials offer numerous design possibilities. Please contact us or call 800-531-5268 for more information.
Can you weld and grind MicroGuard alloys?
Yes, you can easily weld, grind, or machine MicroGuard alloys. See the Fabricating section for more information.
Are MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys recyclable?
Yes, in fact, if specified, PMX offers MicroGuard alloys with up to 100% recycled content and many other sustainable benefits. MicroGuard alloys do not contain any hazardous metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, or hexavalent chromium. Depending on the specific alloy, all of our MicroGuard materials contain between 35% and 100% of recycled content. During manufacturing and fabrication, MicroGuard copper alloys do not produce any landfill waste.
Are MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys expensive?
No, in fact, the life cycle cost alone makes MicroGuard materials a bargain for healthcare facilities and other public buildings. Initial cost, cleaning, and the life expectancy of the product must be evaluated as well as the salvage value of MicroGuard materials. MicroGuard alloys are inherently recyclable and retain most of the primary metal value. When compared to other interior touch surface materials such as stainless steel or aluminum, MicroGuard is very competitive.
Fabricating and Finishing FAQs
How can MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys be supplied?
MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys are available in strip, coil, sheet, plate, tube, and casting forms.
How do you maintain and ensure the consistent quality of MicroGuard alloys?
During our entire production process, our operations are governed by our ISO 9001: 2008 quality management system. Our approach focuses on careful planning and design, outstanding laboratory practices, and expertise in fabrication, forming, and drawing. Our process control system is designed to maintain the optimal properties of MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys from beginning to end.
Which metalworking processes can be used on MicroGuard materials?
MicroGuard alloys offer product developers a unique combination of properties that many other metals cannot match. MicroGuard alloys are structurally strong, highly ductile, malleable, and offer outstanding machinability. The materials can be formed, drawn, bent, cast, threaded and riveted. Easy to join, MicroGuard materials can be MIG welded, TIG welded, resistance welded, and brazed. MicroGuard alloys are non-sparking, non-magnetic, and can be cut with laser, waterjet, saw, or plasma tools. Review the MicroGuard Antimicrobial Copper Alloy Guide for more technical information.
Are MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys designed for specific products and applications?
Yes, MicroGuard materials have been developed to produce more than 100 touch surface products that are used in healthcare facilities and other public buildings. Review the list of EPA registered applications.
Where can I get assistance on fabricating with MicroGuard antimicrobial copper alloys?
Our PMX sales and technical staff will review your specifications to ensure that we provide the best MicroGuard copper alloy for your requirements. We will work with you to choose the alloy and properties that will most cost-effectively enhance your touch surface product. This up-front focus results in increased production rates, reduced costs, and lower down time. Just contact us or call 800-531-5268.
*Testing demonstrates effective antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli O157:H7, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE). MicroGuard touch surfaces reduce microbial contamination, but do not necessarily prevent cross contamination.