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Copper and cooking

Natural selection works in strange ways. Sometimes people do the right thing for the wrong reason. But it works, so they carry on doing it. The Romans for example – unlike the Greeks – were not noted for their theoretical scholarship, only their practical application of knowledge. If something appeared to work, they adopted it as a general policy, without necessarily understanding the why and wherefore.

A good example of this is the use of copper in cooking utensils and water pipes. The Roman’s used lead, which is toxic, to carry away their sewage water. Indeed the modern plumbing comes from the Latin word plumbum which means lead. But for bringing water into their homes, they used copper. This had the effect not only of neutralizing the negative effect of toxic lead, but also bringing the positive benefits of making the water cleaner. For the surface of copper is a catalyst to the processes that kill harmful bacteria. Whilst the ancient Roman’s knew nothing of bacteria, they knew about the effects of such deadly creatures. This was a case of observational science in which the effect is observed and noted with rigorous regularity, but the underlying cause 

It was only in the seventeenth century that developments in the microscope by Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek’s that microscopic life forms were discovered. But modern research has shown how useful copper is in killing bacteria and fungi, making it an important product in medicine, toothpaste, antiseptic chemicals, medical machinery, outdoor paint and a host of other products.

Today we know about the catalyzing effect of the surface of copper through scientific experiments. Bacteria that are known to be harmful to humans E. coli O157/H7 and Listeria monocytogenes (found in food), MRSA, L. pneumophila (which causes Legionnaire’s disease) have all fallen victim to the power of copper, seldom surviving beyond a few hours.

Copper and its alloys, brass (copper and zinc in a 2-1 ratio), bronze (copper and tin in an 8-1 ratio), cupro-nickel cupro-nickel-zinc have all been tested. The results have shown that it is copper that is the important element. Pure copper fares better than the alloys in killing microbes and the higher the proportion of copper in the alloy, the better the results. Thus brass is a better microbe inhibitor than bronze. But all get better results at room temperature than in cold temperatures.

The effectiveness of copper in killing bacteria is particularly important in the control of legionaires disease because of the propensity of L. pneumophila to proliferate in the water of air conditioning systems. The microbe is even known to be impervious to the effects of chlorine. Thus an alternative approach based on copper is useful.

These same anti bacterial effects can be achieved in the human body by the use of copper bracelets, that can be combined with magnets to achieve added health benefits. Copper magnetic bracelets for men and women can be bought at a magnetic products store very cheaply.