Unfortunately the story seems to be based largely on a press release from the, wait for it, Copper Development Association. So it's just possible there may be a whiff of bias here.
The story says:
March 25 (Bloomberg) -- Copper doorknobs, bedrails and faucets can prevent the spread of deadly drug-resistant infections that have become a growing public-health threat in hospitals, according to a metal industry group.Digging a little further, it seems the EPA on Tuesday ruled that metal-alloy manufacturers can make "health claims" about their products:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found copper, brass and bronze can combat infections, including those caused by methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, according to a statement today from the New York-based Copper Development Association.
NEW YORK—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the registration of antimicrobial copper alloys, with public health claims. These public health claims acknowledge that copper, brass and bronze are capable of killing harmful, potentially deadly bacteria. Copper is the first solid surface material to receive this type of EPA registration, which is supported by extensive antimicrobial efficacy testing. ...There may be good science about some metals being sterilizing — there is at least one company producing silver-coated catheters to combat bloodstream infections — but I'm personally confused why this is an EPA ruling and not an FDA one, if the alloys are going to go into hospital fixtures. Perhaps bedrails and IV stands don't qualify as "devices"?
The following statements are included in the registration: "When cleaned regularly, antimicrobial copper alloys surfaces kill greater than 99.9% of (specific) bacteria within two hours, and continue to kill more than 99% of (these) bacteria even after repeated contamination," and "The use of a copper alloy surface is a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control practices; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices, including those practices related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces. The copper alloy surface material has been shown to reduce microbial contamination, but it does not necessarily prevent cross contamination."