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Copper Can Help Control Fungal Emission in HVAC Systems

As consumers are becoming ever more health conscious, new applications and research are helping to create healthier air conditioning systems. Fungi and bacteria in ventilation systems are responsible for airborne particles that can affect people who suffer with allergies and can cause infection in others. Recently in environmental health studies at the University of Southampton, it was discovered that the use of copper instead of aluminium in air conditioning units significantly reduced fungal growth.


Like any living organism fungi and bacteria need moisture and food to survive. Air conditioning and ventilation systems that are poorly maintained are the ideal environment. As these substances grow, they can sometimes cause health symptoms in people triggered by Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The substances produce the VOCs while feeding on the surface on which it is growing, and these VOCs are released as airborne particles into the atmosphere sometimes causing respiratory illness, or allergic reactions.


The discovery that copper is an effective anti fungal surface was presented by Professor Bill Keevil who is chair of environmental healthcare at Southampton University. The effectiveness of copper was tested as an anti fungal surface with a view to providing an alternative to aluminium. From a health perspective, dense occupation of buildings can cause adverse symptoms in human health by causing toxic effects, infections, or allergies. As a result, the consequences of microbial growths and the ensuing contamination of air have become a matter of concern to those responsible for good environmental health.

A recent study presented to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Committee of Indoor Air Quality concluded that copper is helpful in controlling emissions of fungi and bacteria from air-conditioning and ventilation systems.

Copper not only proved antifungal but also prevented subsequent spore growth. It offers a valuable alternative to aluminium to reduce contamination by fungi and bacteria in ventilation systems.


In the USA, Dr Michael Schmidt, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Carolina, presented comparison data from Air conditioning systems using copper versus air conditioning systems using aluminium during day-to-day use in buildings. The work was carried out in the US Army’s large training base at Fort Jackson, supported by the US Army Medical Research and Material Command. This research agreed with the UK research and Dr Schmidt made recommendations to commission more research to explore impact levels of copper air conditioning systems and the effect of copper on typical fungi and bacteria levels.


The International Copper Association welcomed the news of this research and in conjunction with Chinese air conditioning company Chigo, launched a new air conditioning system to harness the antimicrobial properties of copper components.

This new innovation for the use of copper in air conditioning means copper has a new application as the world’s most effective touch surface material that is antimicrobial.

With copper proven to inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria, this new innovation will make heating and ventilation systems even healthier and more suited for environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, dental surgeries and other places where clean air is paramount. With laboratory testing showing that copper inhibits the growth of fungi and bacteria, the results clearly showed up after 24 hours of exposure to a copper surface, several common fungi totally died off in this time frame while the comparable aluminium surface showed no die off at all.

Copper in the manufacture of air conditioning is a positive new trend for air conditioner technology and will lead to healthier homes and workplaces, reducing the amount of fungi and bacteria in ventilation systems.

Posted in: HVAC Systems - On: 28th of May, 2013