As you might have heard, brass is experiencing something of a renaissance, becoming a favorite among architects and interior designers. It’s not surprising why, though, given its gold-like luster (without the hefty price tag) and excellent durability. However, there’s another great reason to use this copper alloy at home and in establishments: it’s naturally germicidal.
This all boils down to what is called the oligodynamic effect. This action was first discovered in 1893 by Karl Wilhelm von Nageli, though its exact details are still not fully understood. However, it is generally accepted that ions from certain metals like copper bind with the DNA, RNA, cellular proteins, and enzymes present in bacteria cells, which causes them to perish. As such, it can effectively halt the spread of common pathogens like E.coli and staphylococcus, and can even destroy 99% of fungi within six hours of exposure.
This fact further expands the usefulness of brass. For instance, plumbing can be switched to brass to naturally purify water of bacteria; places that have a lot of “hand traffic” such as door knobs can also be changed to brass to minimize bacteria transfer.
Hospitals have also begun using brass to better maintain sanitation in their premises. According to a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), multiple hospitals retrofitted certain hospital bedrooms with antimicrobial copper alloys, including four types of brass. The so-called “coppered” rooms had 97% less surface pathogens that non-coppered rooms, and the risk of a patient getting a hospital-acquired disease was also slashed by some 40%. As such, replacing commonly touched items such as bed rails, trays, and IV poles with brass is an option all healthcare facilities should consider.