Element of Life, Productivity, Economy
In these times of social distancing, work from home, shelter in place, and shortages of critical medical, health, and life infrastructure it has never been more clear which industries, products, and services are essential to our lives. Not just nice to haves but need to haves.
Current times have shown us that these, among others are essential:
- Well equipped, up-to-date medical facilities and staff
- First responders and emergency services equipment and personnel.
- Capable and resilient critical lifeline infrastructure – water, electricity, fuel, transportation, communications, data
- Robust, agile, responsive financial institutions, systems, networks
- Secure, safe and resilient national, regional and local food and dry goods supply and logistics
BUT, that’s only what you see. Underpinning all of these essential goods and services are the raw materials necessary to make them possible, food, fuel, metals, polymers... these are critical. Without these, all of the above either don’t exist, don’t work, or can’t be delivered to where they are needed.
Of any of these critical materials, COPPER and its many alloys may be the only ones that are the building block for all essential goods and services. Without it, none of the above are possible.
Copper wire, cable and copper alloy sheet, strip, and plate electrical connectors and components and the complex electrical equipment made using these components (motors, transformers, switch gear, switches, breakers, receptacles/outlets…) safely and effectively generate and deliver power to our homes, our hospitals, our manufacturing facilities, our grocery stores, within our vehicles. Copper keeps the lights on, the machines working, and the trucks moving. Copper ensures the reliable delivery of distributed energy from onsite solar panels, wind generation, ancillary power sources, and large-scale battery storage to keep critical facilities functioning even when grid power is lost.
Copper powers the data centers, cell towers, servers and all the equipment necessary for us to communicate and function in a digital world. Computers, cell phones, televisions, radios all rely on copper products to deliver and manage power and data.
- Copper tube and fittings, brass and bronze valves and other piping components deliver safe drinking water to homes and businesses, life-saving medical gases to patients in medical facilities, refrigerant and hot/chilled water to heating, ventilating, cooling and refrigeration systems to maintain habitable and safe building environments, maintain the safety, longevity and availability of perishable foods and items in our stores and in shipment.
- Copper, brass, bronze and other copper alloy rod, bar and cast products become the basic building blocks of complex machined parts, bearings, valves, that keep engines running, airplanes flying, fire trucks responding, tractors plowing, medical ventilators and equipment saving lives… brass, bronze and copper alloy machined parts are used so broadly, across so many types of critical equipment that they are impossible to list comprehensively. Copper and copper alloy touch surfaces prevent the growth and spread of dangerous pathogens on frequently touched surfaces. Copper and many of its alloys (over 800) are naturally antimicrobial and are used to manufacture self-sanitizing surfaces that can assist in slowing the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, in current and future outbreaks.
A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, remained viable for up to 2 to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces vs. only 4 hours on copper. Earlier research also reported that copper alloy surfaces rapidly inactivated a similar strain of coronavirus.
EPA has already granted a public health registration to copper alloys (EPA Reg. Nos. 82012-1 to 6) after rigorous testing which demonstrated that uncoated copper alloy surfaces continuously kill >99.9% of six bacteria including the antibiotic-resistant hospital superbugs MRSA and VRE. Numerous antimicrobial copper products are available on the market including: bedrails, countertops, sinks, carts, faucets, and handles.
- Copper alloy coins (not just pennies, which are flashed in copper, but quarters, nickels, dimes and dollars that are all made from copper alloys) can also prevent the spread of infections as they, too are antimicrobial. And, while credit cards are plastic and mobile and non-touch payments can be made from our phones and devices, all of those systems and the date generated is powered and delivered through copper and copper alloy parts.
Copper as a material is ubiquitous and critical to safe, resilient effective life- and society-supporting infrastructure, products and systems. To deliver these critical components that are the basic building blocks of life as we know it a strong, resilient and robust domestic copper industry is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL.
Local, state and federal governments must thus ensure that copper industry operations and employees are designated as “essential” and not included in any “shelter in place” or similar orders as we address the COVID-19 crisis.