Examining Claims That Copper Products Reduce Health Risks
It's likely that the coronavirus is here to stay in one form or another, and most people seem to have accepted that and gotten back to the business of living their lives. Still, anything that might be of help in either preventing or treating this particular illness is bound to attract attention and rightfully so. After all, accepting the presence of covid is different than surrendering to it. Along this line, a series of recent articles and news stories caught our attention because they suggested that the humble Moscow Mule mug may have helped some people fight off the coronavirus. But can that be true?
Do Solid Copper Mugs Have Medicinal Qualities?
A quick reading of some of the aforementioned articles gives the impression the writers are suggesting the Moscow Mule itself might have some role to play in fighting off the coronavirus. A closer read, however, reveals that the real antiviral hero (if there is one in this story) is not the vodka, ginger beer or lime used to create the cocktail, but instead the copper mug that the Moscow Mule is traditionally served in.
"But wait" you say, "I thought solid copper mugs were hazardous to my health." We're not going to wade back into that in this article. Suffice to say that we debunked that myth in an earlier post you can find here.
So, now that we have once again established that drinking from copper mugs doesn't endanger your health, is it possible that doing so actually provides some type of prophylactic benefit that can protect you from the coronavirus? It's an interesting question and answering it requires that we take a closer look at copper itself.
A Bit of Background
The ancient Egyptians were aware that copper provided some type of antimicrobial benefit, although they lacked the scientific grounding to be able to quantify it. Fast forward to 1852 when a French doctor noticed that men working with copper were far less likely to contract cholera than other men. A finding that was confirmed by studies 15 years later. In 1973 another study by researchers at Battelle Columbus Laboratories concluded that copper and copper alloy surfaces have the power to fight off mold, fungi and a wide range of harmful microbes.
Other studies, too numerous to list here, have also concluded that copper does indeed possess potent antimicrobial properties. As a result, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows public health claims to be made about copper that it will not allow about other metals. To date, registered health claims include the following:
- Some copper alloys reduce bacterial contamination
- Copper surfaces are able to kill more than 99.9% of bacteria within 2 hours of contact
- Copper surfaces can kill up to 99.9% of bacteria after repeated colonizations
- Copper has been shown to inhibit bacterial growth between cleanings
Those are some pretty incredible statements about copper allowed by the EPA and they certainly seem to add credibility to the claims that drinking from a custom copper mug might help you avoid infection by the coronavirus. But is such a logical leap warranted?
Wholesale Copper Mugs to the Rescue?
Hospitals have long known of the antibacterial properties of copper and often use copper on surfaces that are touched frequently by lots of people, like door knobs and push plates. Recent events got many hospital administrators wondering if copper would also be effective in helping to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. Studies conducted to find out indicate that copper surfaces are just as effective at killing it as they are at killing other microbes. That's great, right? That means that if you want to fend off COVID-19 all you have to do is to drink from a copper mug, right? Well, not quite.
In order for copper from mugs to be able to provide any significant protective function the amount of copper that leached from the mug into your Moscow Mule or other beverage would have to be pretty significant. But it's not. And this goes back to the earlier discussion about whether drinking from a copper mug would be dangerous. The fact is the amount of copper that leaches from the mug into a given drink is so tiny that it poses no real threat to your health. Unfortunately, it's also too small to provide any real benefit in fighting the coronavirus if you've already been infected.
That said if you're worried about possible transmission happening by touching the same drinking vessel others use, making a copper mug your regular drinking vessel may help reduce the odds of that. You could also consider changing the doorknobs and other frequently touched surfaces in your house to copper, as this has been proven to reduce microbial transmission in hospitals and elsewhere.
The Bottom Line
The notion that drinking from the personalized copper mugs you serve Moscow Mules in could help you fight off infection by the coronavirus is an intriguing one, but not one that pans out in the real world. While the copper surface of the mug may prevent contact transmission better than some alternative materials, drinking from a copper mug will not provide enough copper to be able to attack and kill the coronavirus in the mucous membranes of the throat. Still, if you're wary about contact transmission, using a laser-engraved copper mug from Paykoc Imports as your regular drinking vessel may help you to sleep a little easier at night.