TransLink testing antimicrobial copper coating to kill bacteria and viruses

Nov 10 2020, 1:51 pm

The use of copper coating for high-touch surfaces on Metro Vancouver’s public transit system is being tested by TransLink as its latest health safety measure against COVID-19.

TransLink announced today the pilot project is the first of its kind for a public transit system in North America.

According to a release, copper alloy surfaces are naturally antimicrobial with self-sanitizing properties that kill up to 99.9% of bacteria and viruses within four hours.

Another product being tested is organosilane, which is a wipe-on coating that can provide long-lasting protection against microbes.

These products will be applied on high-touch surfaces, such as poles, bars, and door handles.

TransLink copper and organosilane pilot

Copper alloy being tested on high-touch surfaces. (TransLink)

Over the initial four-week pilot project, the products will be tested on two trolley buses on high-ridership routes and two SkyTrain cars on the Expo and Millennium lines. Two times each week, the surfaces will be swabbed and tested to determine the antimicrobial effectiveness of the products. Upon the conclusion of this pilot project phase, the surfaces will also be examined for durability.

“We’re proud to be the first transit agency in North America to pilot this industry-leading technology and I look forward to working closely with our project partners. We’ve been carefully examining new ways to ensure transit is one of the safest public spaces throughout the pandemic,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond in a statement.

“The risk of COVID-19 transmission on transit remains extremely low and this initiative will only bolster our comprehensive cleaning protocols which are already in place. Any findings from this pilot project will be shared with our fellow transit agency colleagues and other industries which may be able to use this emerging technology.”

TransLink copper and organosilane pilot

Copper alloy being tested on high-touch surfaces. (TransLink)

This project is a partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), which is already testing the products that reduce infection rates in a healthcare setting. Vancouver mining giant Teck Resources is providing the funding and materials for the project, as part of the company’s Copper & Health program.

Other partners include the Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital Foundation, Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction Canada, and the University of British Columbia.

Previous studies by Teck and VCH have shown copper can effectively kill bacteria and is durable over many years.

“This project builds on preceding research and will increase our understanding of the effectiveness of copper in killing organisms on frequently-touched surfaces. Positive findings will then be used to study the impact of copper on bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19 and norovirus,” said Dr. Marthe Charles, medical microbiologist at Vancouver Coastal Health.

“This holds future infection control benefits not only for the public in their travels but for healthcare workers and patients who navigate their medical journey at Vancouver Coastal Health and beyond.”

If the findings prove to be positive, the learnings will be shared with other public transit systems in North America.

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