American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Copper at the Frontlines – Hong Kong to Distribute Face Masks Containing Copper to Its Citizens

    Known and appreciated already by the Ancients for its antimicrobial properties, Copper has recently entered into the discourse over how to fight the current coronavirus outbreak and future pandemics.   A case in point is a new Assembly bill in New York, which seeks to reduce the spread of infection by requiring all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces, including door handles, bathroom fixtures, bed rails and handrails.

    Over the course of the past few weeks, ARPN has featured several new ideas on how to harness Copper’s properties in the fight against coronavirus, ranging from the development of copper-infused fabrics to copper-alloyed cell phone cases. One of these new ideas is now finding practical application in Hong Kong, which found itself at the frontline of the pandemic early on and which is now, against the backdrop of dwindling infection numbers, is slowly re-opening its economy.  

    Having long embraced face coverings as part of its overall strategy to reduce contagion, Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) earlier this week announced that the government will be distributing free reusable masks to all its citizens.  And – you guessed it – the reusable six-layer masks with “special ergonomic features” contain copper, which, according to ITB “is capable of immobilising bacteria, common viruses and other harmful substances,” and is in compliance with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for particle filtration efficiency, bacterial filtration efficiency, resistance to penetration by synthetic blood, flammability and pressure resistance.

    Developed by The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles & Apparel, the patented mask was awarded a Gold Medal at the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva 2018.

    Hong Kong may have flattened its curve and is now moving into the next phase of working to stave off another wave of infections, but elsewhere, we are still a far cry from being out of the woods.  Experts agree that coronavirus is here to stay, and future pandemics will follow.  

    There continues to be some debate over the effectiveness of face masks in the overall fight against coronavirus (in particular when it comes to home-made face coverings many governments are now advising its citizens to wear in public). That debate notwithstanding, effectively “arming” textiles with virus-fighting properties courtesy of copper would help strengthen our arsenal in the fight.  

  • Against Backdrop of COVID-19, State Assembly Bill Calls for Use of Antimicrobial Copper in Public Construction

    Legislation introduced in the State Assembly of New York, a state that has been hit particularly hard by the current coronavirus pandemic, would require publicly funded construction projects to use antimicrobial copper.

    The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Marcy), would “require all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces – including door handles, bathroom fixtures, bed rails and handrails. She said the legislation would reduce the spread of infection and help boost the local economy by investing in locally made materials.”

    Copper’s antimicrobial properties are well established, with the first recorded use of the material as an “infection-killing agent” dating back to Smith’s Papyrus, which is considered the oldest-known medical document in history and has been ascribed to an Egyptian doctor circa 1700 B.C., “but is based on information that dates back as far as 3200 B.C.” according to the Smithsonian Magazine.

    Subsequently, copper became a staple material in virtually all sectors of our society.  It is still the second most widely used metal used by the U.S. Defense Industrial Base — but in many 20th Century building applications, it has since been replaced by newer, flashier materials.

    As researchers have pointed out in recent years, this may have been a mistake.   Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, experts like Bill Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southhampton, have been calling for the reintroduction of copper into public spaces, and in particular into hospitals, because of its germ-fighting properties.  

    A study conducted in 2015 showed significant reduction rates in infections in hospital patient rooms with components made of copper when compared to patient rooms with components made of standard materials.

    Specifically looking at coronavirus, a new clinical study conducted by National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists and published in The New England Journal of Medicine earlier this spring confirmed that while SARS-CoV-2 was stable “for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel,” it was only detectable on copper for four hours.

    Buttenschon based her bill on these scientific findings, and says, 

    “As we continue to do everything we can to flatten the curve and protect New Yorkers during these difficult times, it’s critical that we utilize new knowledge and technology to help mitigate any future health crises (…) By promoting the use of bacteria- and virus-killing materials, this bill will help safeguard the public health now and for future generations.”

    Of course, reintroducing copper into public construction comes with a price tag.

    However, while copper may be more expensive than other building materials, it has also proven to be extremely durable and recyclable, which may help to offset cost in the long run.  Add to that the fact that when looking at hospitals, specifically, healthcare-associated infections affect nearly 1.7 million patients each year in the United States alone, claiming more than 90,000 lives and resulting in billions of dollars in additional cost for patient care, using copper in public construction could become an investment that will pay for itself in reduced hospital stays and lives saved.

    Buttenschon’s legislation has a companion bill in the New York State Senate and has garnered interest in the state’s Congressional delegation as well.

    As ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty recently stressed:

    “Hard as it is to envision, this won’t be our last pandemic. COVID, or some mutant cousin, will make a return visit this fall, next winter, or next year. Now is the time for smart moves to respond to this threat and prepare for future ones. New public spaces—and particularly the touch-points of human contact within those spaces—must become our first line of protection. Anti-microbial metals like copper are an indispensable weapon in this war.”

    It is certainly encouraging to see that new ideas based on a proven old concept —  ranging from reintroducing copper in building materials, copper-infused fabrics, or copper-alloyed cell phone cases — are brought into this fight.  
  • College Seniors Develop Copper Phone Case – A “Smart Move” for Smartphones Amidst a Pandemic

    Courtesy of the current coronavirus pandemic, we wash our hands – perhaps more frequently and thoroughly than before, and contactless shopping is becoming the norm for many.  Disinfectant has become more than a household staple, and we find ourselves constantly sanitizing everything from light switches over door handles to groceries.   To borrow a quote [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for The Economic Standard: Red Swan – a Leaked 2010 Cable on Critical Infrastructure/Key Resource Vulnerabilities Provided Warning Signs We Failed To Act On

    In a new piece for The Economic Standard, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues that while the “intellectual shrug” of “who could have seen this coming” tends to be a common reaction to our new normal of sheltering in place and social distancing, there were warning signs for a coming crisis we failed to recognize for what they were, and act [...]
  • As China Looks to Move Past Coronavirus Pandemic, Resource War Theaters Come into Focus

    With much of the world still in lockdown, China appears to rev up its engine to move past the coronavirus.  The City of Wuhan, the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, has re-opened, factories have restarted their operations, stores are reopening and people are leaving their confined quarters to venture outside.  With coronavirus having exposed [...]
  • Mining Sector Essential Part of Nation’s Critical Infrastructure Workforce

    As the U.S. grapples to flatten the curve of the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, large swaths of public life have come to a grinding halt. However, as North of 60 Mining News publisher Shane Lasley points out in a new piece for the publication, “it remains imperative for the nation to maintain the critical [...]
  • As Beijing Sees Coronavirus Pandemic as Opportunity to Weaken U.S. Position, America Should Bolster Domestic Mineral Supply Chains

    Earlier this month, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argued that while the current focus on ending the dangerous dependence on critical medicines needed to combat COVID-19 is more than warranted, Congress and the administration “may want to broaden their focus from critical medicines to critical minerals.” In a new piece published in the Duluth News Tribune, Michael Stumo, [...]
  • Materials Science Revolution Vs. Coronavirus: Copper-Infusion to Turn Common Cotton Fibers Into a “Defensive Wall”?

    Last week, we discussed the antimicrobial properties of copper, the re-introduction of which experts argue could help the fight against Coronavirus and future pandemics — particularly in hospitals and other public spaces.  Taking the notion of a new idea often being an old one further, an Israeli scientist has taken the mainstay material copper, and [...]
  • COVID-19 Requires Rethink – Time to Bring Back Copper in Public Spaces?

    Rock beats scissors. Scissors beat paper. Copper beats coronavirus. It sounds flippant, but at this moment of utmost seriousness, there’s a truth to it.  In a new piece, senior writer for Fast Company Mark Wilson discusses the thesis of Bill Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, whose research has led him [...]
  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty for RealClearPolitics: “Time to Reduce Reliance on China for Medicine AND Critical Minerals”

    In a new piece for RealClear Politics, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues that while the current focus on ending the dangerous dependence on critical medicines needed to combat COVID-19 is more than warranted, Congress and the administration “may want to broaden their focus from critical medicines to critical minerals.” Read his full piece here: Getting Critical [...]