Oh most amusing, really, most amusing

Researchers have discovered that copper and alloys made from the metal, including brass, can prevent antibiotic resistance in bacteria from spreading.

Plastic and stainless steel surfaces, which are now widely used in hospitals and public settings, allow bacteria to survive and spread when people touch them.

Silver\’s even better of course but I don\’t think we\’ll be kitting out with that.

But isn\’t this just great? All that modernity, all that ripping out of the old and replacement with futuristic design actually kills people?

It\’s almost as fun as the dicovery that the wooden chopping boards, which they made illegal, contain natural antibiotics which the plastic chopping boards, which they made compulsory, do not.

The Man from Whitehall really does not know best. And given that, can we hang them all from the Christmas tree please? It would usher in such a jolly New Year.

21 comments on “Oh most amusing, really, most amusing

  1. Hasn’t this been known for years? I seem to recall that copper was used to sheathe wooden ships to avoid biological growth, and a quick search suggests it’s been studied in the hospital environment for at least 15 years.

  2. I also gather that wooden chopping blocks are better at keeping bacteria at bay than plastic and steel. So butchers blocks do have a purpose and all this “must use plastic because it’s modern” attitude to H&S is just driven by brianless twats (pen pushers) who haven’t actually done any science to check it.

  3. Matthew – Not only did we sheathe wooden ships in copper to cut fouling, but when we moved to iron and then steel hulls, the top end (major warships and the like) used metal hulls, which were then planked over with wood, and then sheathed with copper.

    You couldn’t simply put copper on iron, or it corrodes to nothing from galvanic action; but the benefits of the copper sheathing were worth the considerable extra expense, until effective anti-fouling paints came along.

    The old ways aren’t always best, but it’s usually worth investigating why the elders did it a particular way rather than automatically assuming we can substitute something new.

  4. It’s the same with bed bugs, they don’t like metal furniture although whether this is because of inherent insecticidal qualities or simply because there are fewer cavities to hide in I don’t know.
    Wooden chopping boards aren’t banned btw.

  5. The chopping board thing (aiui) has gone round in a circle. Wooden chopping boards were banned but later were allowed when research indicated they were not a problem.

  6. Tim, which law makes wooden chopping boards illegal, and for whom? Wooden chopping boards are still widely available. Here‘s a leaflet setting out legal requirements for catering businesses, which doesn’t specify a material for chopping boards.

    It does mention HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point). And there is an HACCP standard for colour-coded chopping boards, so that different sorts of food can be kept apart. Perhaps in some circumstances regulators would insist on this colour coding. And if they did, perhaps they would be right.

    So whom do you want to hang, and why?

  7. Firstly, wooden chopping boards aren’t ‘banned’. They are not used in commercial kitchens for good reasons, though – they’re much harder to keep properly clean when they’re in constant use, and far more expensive.

    The reason the ‘old-timers’ used wooden chopping boards was that they had no alternative material to use – that’s all.

  8. Makes me think of all those zinc worksurfaces that were so common in the old days. The zinc being alloyed with copper to increase ductility but zinc having good antimicrobial properties of its own.

  9. ” zinc having good antimicrobial properties of its own”

    Also bollocks. Do you really think the effect is significant, compared to a wipe-down with soap and water?

  10. Dave: the idea behind copper containing work surfaces is that they complement rather than replace soap and water. Not so sure about zinc, hadn’t heard about that being toxic to microbes.

  11. Matthew>

    Yes, but the idea is largely nonsense. Soap and water is 100% effective at removing bacteria when applied to an area. If things are being cleaned properly, the antibacterial action is irrelevant, and if they’re not, it won’t be nearly enough by itself to make any difference.

    The big difference, as any older nurse/doctor will tell you, is not the materials used, but the thoroughness of the cleaning. I understand why we’ve taken ward-cleaning out of the hands of nurses, who have enough else to do (when they do anything at all), but we need to create a group of specialist hospital cleaners who are (relatively) well paid, highly respected, and take pride in their work as well as appreciating its life-saving importance.

  12. “Soap and water is 100% effective at removing bacteria when applied to an area. ”
    Except that nothing is 100% effective at anything in the real world. But the assumption it can be is usually the precursor to disaster.

    “but we need to create a group of specialist hospital cleaners who are (relatively) well paid, highly respected, and take pride in their work as well as appreciating its life-saving importance.”

    It’s amazing that there are innumerable ‘superclean’ industrial environments, maintained at much higher standards than the NHS, without much talk of ‘highly respected’, ‘pride in work’, ‘life saving importance’. But there is a great deal of supervision & checking.

  13. MatthewL @12
    “Not so sure about zinc, hadn’t heard about that being toxic to microbes.”

    You can actually see the process at work on zinc roofs. Pretty well any roofing material will start to develop algal growth given sufficient moisture etc. Something rarely seen on zinc unless there’s a build-up of material to give it a foothold.

  14. Wiki says zinc oxide is a good anti bacterial. Zin, itself isn’t but it oxidises very easily. So not a myth. But a good wipe down is still needed. Both together will get to that mythical 99.9%.

  15. I’ll accept professional cleaners highly paid and so on. If we can then hold them liable for unclean hospitals and bugs caught as a result of not being clean enough.

    Anyone up for the challenge? Oh, and of course like any cleaning your time is limited and have to do all the cleaning regardless of staffing.

  16. BIS>

    “Except that nothing is 100% effective at anything in the real world. ”

    Nonsense. Wiping a surface covered in bacteria with a soapy cloth is 100% effective at killing the bacteria that are wiped. The areas that remain unwiped are the problem. Focus on the problem: ensuring everything gets wiped.

    “‘superclean’ industrial environments”

    Don’t have sick people in them. Not a valid comparison. They don’t need cleaning at all, since dirt is not allowed in to start with. Come to think of it, who cleans the super-isolation units in hospitals?

    Yes, there are people who deal with this stuff properly – similarly to the people who deal with asbestos, they take the proper precautions, have check-lists, and so-on. Hospital cleaners need to be organised along those lines, clearly, but let’s not forget that the people clearing asbestos are properly paid rather than minimum wagers.

    Martin Davies>

    “I’ll accept professional cleaners highly paid and so on. If we can then hold them liable for unclean hospitals and bugs caught as a result of not being clean enough. Anyone up for the challenge?”

    For a reasonable fee I’d be happy to take it on. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever it’s possible to solve the problem relatively simply with good management/organisation and reasonable pay. I could give you a list in ten minutes of the people I’d call, and in a week we’d be ready to go.

    Doing it optimally in a competitive market would be rather harder – and a question of marketing somewhat more than management – but in the current ‘market’ it would take a malfeasant or an idiot to fail to be significantly better than what exists.

  17. “that mythical 99.9%.”

    It’s not mythical at all. Domestos aren’t allowed to advertise their product as 100% effective because that would mean no microbes are present, and it’s impossible to prove a negative. Despite that, all soap/bleach products of reasonable strength do in fact kill all the microbes. MRSA is not soap-resistant.

  18. “The areas that remain unwiped are the problem. ”

    Which brings us back to the topic of Tim’s post. Using an inherently antimicrobial material takes care of those small areas that get missed. The microbes don’t get a chance to reproduce & spread. And there never is such a thing as 100%. Anywhere.

    “‘superclean’ industrial environments”
    They don’t need cleaning at all, since dirt is not allowed in to start with.”
    Just means you’ve never worked with superclean industrial environments. Of course they get dirty. They’ve people in them for a start. It is actually a very similar problem to hospitals. Solved by: Preventing contamination in the first place. Careful cleaning. Rigorous inspection.

    So why do hospitals have problems?
    I’d look on two topics we’ve touched on of late.
    Firstly, that whole NHS, best in the world, narrative thing. particularly the “Dedicated staff yada yada yada….” It’s in the language, isn’t it? “Hospital standard of cleanliness” things are described as. “Clean as an operating room” They imply there’s a dedicated, conscientious body of people making that happen. No-one in industry would buy that crap for a second. You don’t presume people are dedicated conscientious. You check.
    So why don’t they?
    It’s that mindset thing discussed on a recent thread. Not looking at things from a quantitative point of view. A hospital administrator, administrates. Look! It says so on the office door so that’s what must happen. Same with cleaners. The job description is ‘Cleaner’ so cleaners clean. If the cleaners have been there, it is presumed clean. It’s not a mindset you’d find so often in industry where you’d employ cleaners to clean, then have a whole inspection regime to ensure the result of the operation was indeed cleanliness.
    It’s got nothing to do with how much you pay cleaners. You could pay them triple the NHS rate without making the slightest difference if you don’t check. The important thing is the standard of cleanliness. Then, it’s how much it will cost to achieve it?

  19. kudos to Dave

    he has raised the debate from wooden chopping boards to how all you need is soap and water to eradicate microbes. Except that people will keep on dying in NHS hospitals – the bastards….don’t they know what is good for them?

    he does not explain whay the NHS does not eradicate microbes by the use of soap and water. he cannot, because he is talking bullshit. People keep dying dying in NHS hospitals because no one cleans those surfaces.

    Norovirus does not seem to die at the threat of soap and water. note how Dave restricts his replies to bacteria. he makes me laugh – is he the Basil Brush of the NHS?

    disingenuous?

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