How Copper Works
Scientists have identified a number of ways copper can destroy bacteria and germs. One is electrical.
Copper is highly conductive to electricity. “Every cell’s outer membrane, including that of a single cell organism like a bacterium, is characterized by a stable electrical micro-current. This is often called ‘transmembrane potential’, and is, literally, a voltage difference between the inside and the outside of a cell. It is strongly suspected that when a bacterium comes in contact with a copper surface, a short circuiting of the current in the cell membrane can occur. This weakens the membrane and creates holes.”
In other words, copper zaps the cell.
Copper is the second most conductive metal after silver. Silver also kills microbes on contact, but silver is highly toxic and too dangerous to use on mucous membranes. (Zinc, the third most conductive metal, is also known to kill germs but is also potentially toxic. The FDA has warned that zinc can damage the sense of smell. Some people say it has also affected their sense of taste and can cause nausea.)
Copper alloys with even a very small amounts of other metals mixed in are not as conductive as pure copper. The fact that pure copper works better than other copper alloys supports the idea that electrical conductivity is a source of the power of copper to reduce the spread of infectious illness.
Other ways copper affects germs involve oxides, enzymes, proteins, and copper ions, which are released from the copper and suffuse into the fluid around the germs.
“Another way to make a hole in a membrane is by localized oxidation or ‘rusting.’ This happens when a single copper molecule, or copper ion, is released from the copper surface and hits a building block of the cell membrane (either a protein or a fatty acid). If the ‘hit’ occurs in the presence of oxygen, we speak of ‘oxidative damage,’ or ‘rust.’ An analogy is rust weakening and making holes in a piece of metal.
“After punching holes, how do copper ions further damage the cell?
“Now that the cell’s main defense (its outer envelope) has been breached, there is an unopposed stream of copper ions entering the cell. This puts several vital processes inside the cell in danger. Copper literally overwhelms the inside of the cell and obstructs cell metabolism (i.e., the biochemical reactions needed for life). These reactions are accomplished and catalyzed by enzymes. When excess copper binds to these enzymes, their activity grinds to a halt. The bacterium can no longer ‘breathe’, ‘eat’, ‘digest’ or ‘create energy’.
“How can copper’s effect be so fast, and affect such a wide range of micro-organisms?
“Experts explain the speed with which bacteria perish on copper surfaces by the multi-targeted nature of copper’s effects. After membrane perforation, copper can inhibit any given enzyme that ‘stands in its way,’ and stop the cell from transporting or digesting nutrients, from repairing its damaged membrane, from breathing or multiplying. It is also thought that this is why such a wide range of micro-organisms are susceptible to contact action by copper.”
According to Guillermo Figueroa of the nutrition and food technology department of the University of Chile in Santiago, it’s the ions, or atoms, released by the copper that kill bacteria. “Copper ions separate on contact with bacteria and cause irreversible damage to the bacteria’s cells,” Figueroa said. “It is a very swift, physical chemical process. They die quickly.”
“At the current state of knowledge, it appears that contact killing proceeds by successive membrane damage, copper influx into the cells, oxidative damage, cell death, and DNA degradation.”[B2]
The Idea for CopperZap™
The science above has led to rising use of solid copper touch surfaces in healthcare facilities such as hospitals. These are “community” touch surfaces, meaning surfaces that are touched by numerous people. If patients or healthcare workers have pathogens on their fingers and touch a copper surface, they leave some of the pathogens on the copper. The copper kills the pathogens rapidly, which helps protect the next person who touches that surface and helps reduce the spread of the pathogen.
But the person who left some pathogens on the surface still has some on their fingers. People naturally touch their faces many times a day, so the person may deposit some of the pathogens near their nose before they next wash their hands. From there the pathogens have a short trip to the nose, their “happy valley” where they can accumulate and multiply, make the person ill, and cause the person to later spread pathogens to others, including their families.
So the idea came up that a “personal” copper touch surface might increase protection both in and out of healthcare settings by attacking pathogens directly on the skin. When a person touches a community touch surface, the contact is usually quite brief and only reaches a small portion of the fingertips. With a personal copper touch surface, on the other hand, carried on the person or available close by, a person could rub their fingers on it for 60 seconds and touch the copper to the entire area of the fingertips.
Also, pathogens deposited on a community touch surface are usually in a gob or film of moisture or mucous, saliva or other medium. The copper is only in direct contact with the first layer of pathogens. It takes time for the other pathogens to come in direct contact or to be reached by copper ions diffusing through the medium. By rubbing fingers on a personal touch surface, on the other hand, the medium gets spread around and the copper can directly contact many more of the pathogens, so destruction of pathogens should be more complete in a shorter time.
In community touch surfaces, solid copper reduces germs on the surface. But in a personal touch surface, solid copper may help reduce germs on the skin, not just on the surface. Preliminary research described below gives support to this idea.
The idea for CopperZap™ first arose, however, as a way to apply a virus-killing metal by touch in the nose to stop colds, without the side effects of nasal gels or sprays. Colds generally occur after cold viruses incubate for a time in the inner cavity of the nostril. During the incubation period, some people begin to feel a tickle in their nose that feels different from allergies and warns that a cold is about to start. It makes logical sense that applying solid copper, which is known to kill viruses, should beat back the cold virus and allow the immune system to quickly gain the upper hand.
The logic led to the idea of a solid copper nasal wand with a tip that can be rubbed gently along the valley in the bottom of the inner cavity of the nostril. That’s where the cold germ first collects, replicates, and multiplies before the cold starts. By rubbing for 60 seconds, the copper tip touches a large number of the viruses. Some of the studies cited above noted that copper kills viruses faster at warmer temperatures. The inside of the nostril is warmer than the temperatures at which most of the studies were conducted, so the virus-killing should be even faster. Preliminary research cited below supports the idea that a solid copper nasal wand can prevent a cold if applied at the first warning tickle.
Some people, however, do not notice a tickle in the nose and don’t realize a cold is coming on until a later sign appears, like a scratchy throat or congestion. These are believed to happen as the viruses start to spread out from the valley of the nostril. The logic suggests that you can still stop the cold if you apply copper right away. You can still destroy a large portion of the virus population, especially if you repeat the application several times, even though you many not reach the virues that have spread into the throat or the upper portion of the nose. By greatly reducing the number of viruses where they incubate, our preliminary research suggests, you may give the immune system a better chance to get ahead of the cold and stop it before major symptoms appear.
Once full-blown symptoms appear, the viruses have spread out so much that it is probably too late to completely stop the cold. Copper can still destroy a large number of viruses in the nostril, which may allow the immune system to get ahead of the rest of the viruses sooner and thereby mitigate the severity and/or reduce the duration of the cold. Preliminary research cited below supports this idea.
If a solid copper nasal wand is combined with a solid copper handle, a person trying to prevent a cold also naturally touches their fingers and thumb to the handle, which should reduce the chance they could recontaminate themselves with their fingers or spread any infectious illness to others.
CopperZap™ combines a solid copper nasal wand with a solid copper touch surface handle to create a single low-cost device for personal use.
A number of people have tried solid copper when they felt they were getting a cold. They gently rubbed a solid copper wand for about 60 seconds in each nostril. The ones who did so early, before significant cold symptoms developed, all reported they did not get the cold. It appears copper killed enough cold viruses to stop the cold completely, or to help the immune system to do so.
Some other people who tried it already had significant cold symptoms by the time they applied copper. Of those, all said they believed the cold was less severe or did not last as long as they expected based on their past experience with colds. More research is needed, but it seems in those cases the cold viruses had already spread out from the nostrils into the throat, up to higher portions of the nose, or to the sinuses. Yet by zapping a number of viruses in the nostrils, the copper may have allowed the immune system to gain the upper hand more quickly.
Solid copper seemed to work in a similar manner against flu if the flu starts in the nose, though flu takes more applications over a longer period than colds do. A small number of people reported signs more consistent with oncoming flu than cold. Those who applied copper frequently over 2-3 days reported the flu never fully developed and all signs were gone by day 3 or 4. As with colds, however, it was important to start using copper as early as possible after noticing the first signs. Cases of apparent flu that start in the throat, rather than the nose, did not seem responsive to copper in the nose, although persistent application of solid copper in the nose may have reduced the congestion that sometimes develops later during a flu that started in the throat.
In a small preliminary test, we found that a residue of copper remained in the nostrils and also on the fingers and thumb after rubbing with copper for about 60 seconds. We expected the residue to be absorbed over time. We found that on the fingers and thumb, the residue declined by about 40% in the first 20 minutes. In the nostril, the residue declined by about 60% in the first 20 minutes, presumably because mucous membranes absorb faster than skin.
In a small preliminary lab test, participants who rubbed their fingers and thumbs on clean solid copper for 60 seconds showed a significant reduction in bacteria on fingers and thumbs 15 minutes later, compared with participants who rubbed their fingers and thumbs on stainless steel.
More research is needed, so we plan to provide free CopperZaps™ for testing by qualified researchers upon approval of research protocols. Contact us: info@CopperZap.com.
The tip of CopperZap is smooth and comfortable to apply gently in the inner cavity of the nostril. It is shaped to reach easily into the valley in the bottom of the nostril, where viruses collect and replicate.
The handle of CopperZap is smooth and contoured to achieve maximize contact with the fingers and thumb and to be easy and comfortable to rub while holding in one hand. A solid copper personal touch surface may protect against pathogens received on the hands, especially in hospitals, doctor’s offices, day care, or after handling money. It may also reduce the chance of spreading infectious illness to family members, friends, co-workers, and others.
The handle is also comfortable to rub on the face around the nose and mouth where airborn germs may land or where people may touch their faces, which people do much more often than most of us realize. The touch of solid copper on the face may reduce the number of pathogens reaching the nose.
All surfaces of CopperZap have a fine microscopic texture to increase the surface area contact with microbes for faster and more thorough effect. The texture is so fine the surfaces still feel smooth on the skin and in the nose.