Ronald McDonald – a well-known, global brand – is also renowned for its housing charity, working in communities to offer aid to families in need. The charity's Charleston House has elected to retrofit many touch surfaces and hardware with antimicrobial copper items in the hopes of providing a safer living and working environment for guests and employees.
The Ronald McDonald House of Charleston provides seriously ill children and their families a "second home" during the time of the child's treatment and recovery. These amenities are provided at no cost to the families in need. The facility can host up to 25 families a night and volunteers are on staff 24 hours a day to aid the families however possible.
All families have children currently in the hospital and the majority of those children are in the Intensive Care Units (ICU). Studies have shown that 70% of ICU patients who have stayed in the ICU for over a week contracted an infection. Such statistics demonstrate the importance of fighting infection in hospitals and other environments where patients and their families are vulnerable. By outfitting frequently-touched surfaces (e.g. grab rails, door knobs, tabletops, stair rails and chair arms) with antimicrobial copper, the House will provide a cleaner living environment for its guests and staff.
The extensive renovation, which makes RMHC the first non-profit temporary residence facility in the United States to undertake an Antimicrobial Copper retrofit, has replaced steel, wood and plastic touch surfaces with solid, copper-based metals like brass and bronze. Many high-traffic surfaces were converted, including: stair handrails, sinks, taps, tables, locksets, cabinet pulls and chair arms.
"When we learned about copper's proven antimicrobial properties, we were anxious to be the first Ronald McDonald House to test the touch surfaces. I hope our results will help spur a public health trend toward the use of antimicrobial copper materials," said Barbara Bond - executive director, Ronald McDonald House of Charleston. "It has been an honour to work with the copper manufacturers and installers who donated time and materials in helping us to make our facility even safer for our guests and their children," she added.
Dr Michael Schmidt, professor and vice chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, was the lead investigator in the US, multi-site clinical trial that first demonstrated antimicrobial copper surfaces reducing the risk of patients acquiring hospital infections. He said of the Ronald McDonald installation: "This practical application of Antimicrobial Copper will provide a strong 'real world' example that will give the American public a clear understanding of the public health benefits of copper materials not only in a healthcare setting, but also in hotels, restaurants and other public gathering places."
US-based Copper Development Association Inc is also doing research at the House of Charleston to investigate copper's potential in this environment. Researchers have swabbed the previous surfaces that are to be replaced by Antimicrobial Copper products. The swabs will provide a baseline for the bacterial contamination levels on the old components, which will later be compared to the contamination levels on the copper surfaces. Researchers hope to show just how much cleaner and safer a building can be if they use antimicrobial copper hardware.
Copper and copper alloys are engineering materials that are durable, colourful and recyclable and are widely available in various product forms suitable for a range of manufacturing purposes. Copper and its alloys offer a suite of materials for designers of functional, sustainable and cost-effective products.
Copper and certain copper alloys have intrinsic antimicrobial properties (so-called ‘Antimicrobial Copper’) and products made from these materials have an additional, secondary benefit of contributing to hygienic design. Products made from Antimicrobial Copper are a supplement to, not a substitute for standard infection control practices. It is essential that current hygiene practices are continued, including those related to the cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.