It’s A Fact: Copper Is Our Most "Precious" Metal

February 9, 2001


ATLANTA - The extensive use of copper throughout human history is well documented. Today, this versatile metal is found in such familiar objects as the coins in our pockets, the Statue of Liberty and the plumbing in more than 80 percent of all households in America.

However, the economic and health benefits of copper to industry, technology and humanity are often overlooked. For members of the homebuilding industry, copper is an especially important material used in plumbing, electrical wiring, hardware, roofing and other architectural and decorative products.

Here are just a few of the many amazing uses and benefits of copper:

Home Construction:

  • A typical single-family home of about 2,100 sq. ft. uses an average 439 pounds of copper.
  • Since 1963 (the year the CDA was established), more than 28 billion feet-approximately 5.3 million miles-of copper plumbing tube has been installed in U.S. buildings.
  • Standing seam copper roofing is rated for resistance to the highest winds in Underwriters Laboratories' tests (UL-90).
  • Roofing manufacturers use granules containing copper oxide in asphalt shingles to prevent the growth of algae and the discoloration that results.
  • American homes use an average of 195 pounds of copper wiring for electricity and telephone service.
  • There are approximately one billion doorknobs in the U.S., weighing in with about 550 million pounds of copper.

  • A typical automobile contains more than 50 pounds of copper-40 pounds for electrical and 10 pounds for non-electrical components.
  • About 9,000 pounds, or 2 percent of the total weight of a Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet, is copper.
  • A Triton-class nuclear submarine uses around 200,000 pounds of copper.

  • Copper is an effective biocide. Its surface inhibits the growth of e.coli, listeria and legionella, among other harmful bacteria. Tests have shown that copper water tube can help prevent the spread of Legionnaire's Disease in air-conditioning systems.
  • Copper is essential in the human diet. A deficiency in copper can contribute to an increased risk of high cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease.
  • Copper is present in a wide range of vegetables, fruits, grains, dried beans, nuts, meat, seafood and chocolate, as well as drinking water.

  • Copper is mankind's oldest metal, dating back more than 10,000 years.
  • Paul Revere, one of America's earliest coppersmiths, produced the copper hull sheathing, bronze cannon, spikes and pumps for the U.S.S. Constitution, better known as "Old Ironsides."
  • The Statue of Liberty contains 179,000 pounds of copper.
  • The U.S. penny is now a predominantly zinc alloy. The nickel is 75% copper, while the dime, quarter and half-dollar contain 91.67% copper, and the new dollar coin contains 88.5% copper.

To remind everyone of the advantages inherent in this multifaceted metal, the CDA has compiled a booklet, Copper Facts, that underscores copper's unique place not only in our history, but also in our present and future.