Welcome to Professional and Technical Services (PTS) – experts in chemical disinfection for infection prevention. Our goal is to educate and provide you the latest resources related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces, medical devices and hands. As specialists in disinfectant chemistries, microbiology, environmental cleaning and disinfection, facility assessments and policy and procedure creation we are dedicated to helping any person or facility who uses chemical disinfectants.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Copper Coatings for Consumers?


I don’t believe I’ve ever tried to pull the wool over the eyes of my readers.  I’ve been upfront in stating I work for a disinfectant manufacturer, and I’ve been diligent in trying to ensure the topics and content I include in my blogs are educational and not promoting of my company’s products.  My belief, is that in developing the best cleaning and disinfection protocols - regardless of whether it’s for our homes, our offices, our schools, hospitals or even barns - that education, discussion, debate and even the occasional agree to disagree stalemate helps us look at the information laid out in front of us, evaluate it and draw the conclusions that are right for us and that we are comfortable and confident in implementing.



There are always two sides to every story.  In science, the data can and in many cases is often presented in a way to draw conclusions that we want the reader to see.  As a reader, it’s up to us to read between the lines; to ensure that both sides of the story are being presented equally and draw our conclusions after looking at all of the facts.  For that life lesson, I’ll be forever grateful for my Wildlife Ecology teacher from university.



Why do I bring this up?  Well, there was an article published in the Toronto Sun indicating there is a way to beat the bugs found in our public transit systems.  I’m not going to deny, there have been a number of articles published talking about studies looking at the level of bacteria or viruses found on public surfaces.  Heck, I’ve blogged about some of them: toilets, airplanes, security bins.  The reason for my sharing is that we need to be aware of our surroundings.  We need to know that yes, our world includes bugs, many of which can cause harm via infections.  We need to be reminded that we need to wash our hands, and we need to be reminded that cleaning surfaces to remove dirt, grime and pathogens that have been deposited during the day is an important part of life.



The article in question is an opinion article.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  Someone who works for a company that develops and sells copper coatings for environmental surfaces is going to provide their opinion on how their product can be used to improve the lives of TTC riders.  According to the author of the article, “Copper immediately begins killing bacteria and stops it spreading.  The antimicrobial power of copper never stops, so a copper coated surface that is new or 100 years old, will be equally antimicrobial.”  The author further suggests that “Premier Ford, who has vowed to upload the TTC to the province might consider investing in this made-in-Canada technology to protect Torontonians.



Copper and other coatings have been investigated for some time as potential aids in reducing the bioburden of bacteria in hospitals, where the concern of picking up a deadly infection is very concerning and very real.  In fact, in 2013 I did a “Disinfectant Chemistry Report Card on Copper and Silver Antimicrobial Coatings”.   Governmental agencies and microbiology experts have been discussing and debating for years over what testing should be conducted in order to determine efficacy of antimicrobial coatings.  In fact in 2008, the US EPA proposed a protocol assessing the bactericidal activity of 21 different copper and copper alloy surfaces. Those surfaces can be registered with the claim to “kill 99.9% of bacteria within two hours”.  For reference, many disinfectants kill to the same level in 10 – 30 seconds.  

 

I’m not saying that antimicrobial surfaces do not have a place.  What I am hoping to get across is that they are not the silver bullet.  Yes, they have the ability to kill and reduce bacteria, but what about viruses?  The outbreaks that impact our cities with greater frequency and with greater impact to our life are viral based (SARS, Influenza, Norovirus etc). 


To highlight some of the “holes” in the use of copper coatings, I wanted to share a recently published journal article that showed a meta-analysis of the published literature on the use of copper and its alloys.  The authors reviewed 257 studies and concluded that there is no clear evidence of the clinical benefit of copper surfaces. While copper surfaces have demonstrated antimicrobial activity, the implications of this activity in healthcare settings are still unclear, and no published study has been able to show a clear effect on healthcare associated infections.


Another tidbit that we should find interesting is that, while copper does have a continued ability to reduce bacterial levels, there are factors that can inhibit the killing action of copper such as antioxidants, organic soil, or the repeated use of cleaning products.  I think we can agree, that with the numbers of TTC riders each and every day, soil and dirt will be deposited on the copper surfaces and this soil will need to be removed with cleaning products.


So what’s my opinion?  I’m not going to count my copper pennies yet.  I think there is some interesting data to show that there could be some benefit to using antimicrobial surfaces like copper.  However, their use and impact in reducing the spread of infections is not clear, and regardless of their use, we will dirty the areas we inhabit.  This means we’ll always need to clean, which as some data is supporting, can impact or reduce the effectiveness of copper. 


Bugging Off!
Nicole




Friday, October 5, 2018

Eye touchers beware!


I have no qualms about touching my eyeballs.  I particularly like doing it in front of people who can’t and get all squeamish and grossed out.  It’s really a good party trick, particularly around a pack of young boys.  However, our eyes are more than the window to our souls.  As a mucous membrane they are one of the areas of our body that can be incredibly susceptible to infections.  Pink eye is a great example, that nasty infection that results in itchy oozing eyes.

As a former contact wearer, the importance of infection control was not lost on me.  Simple things like washing your hands before putting your “eyes” in or taking them out and keeping the contact lens container clean were incredibly important.  Even though I knew this, and thought I practiced good hygiene I ended up with an ulcer in my eye.  My eye doctor suspected my lens solution as the cause and whether it was an allergic reaction or an infection. I was lucky, had the ulcer been in a different location it could have impaired by vision.

Why would you care about my eyes?  Well, I hope you care about yours especially if you happen to live in the UK where Acanthamoeba keratitis infections have been spiking among contact lens users.  The recent outbreak has UK Health experts urging contact lens users to be more careful.  According to the study that was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, the rate of Acanthamoeba keratitis infection has gone up by 3 times since 2011.  This type of infection is usually considered rare with only 2.5 people / 100,000 every year.  The study found that reusable contact lens users who had eye infections were more likely to have ineffective contact lens solution, contaminated lenses and overall poor contact lens hygiene.  Aside from poor hygiene, wearing contact lenses while swimming, using hot tubs or showering can also increase the risk as the amoeba can be found in bodies of water, soil and even air.

Moving to disposable lenses eliminates the need for contact lens cases or contact lens solutions.  However, while they reduce some risk factors the use of disposable lenses does not remove the need for proper hand hygiene.  The long and the short is if you use contacts or if like me you frequently touch your eyes make sure your hands are clean before handing the contact lenses or touching your eyeball!

Bugging Off!
Nicole