Sweaty hands can reduce bacteria defences in brass items

Posted by ap507 at Jun 18, 2014 11:55 AM |
Researchers discover sweat can cause corrosion of protective qualities of door knobs and taps within an hour of contact

A research team has discovered that sweaty hands can reduce the effectiveness of bacteria-fighting brass objects in hospitals and schools after just an hour of coming into contact with them.  

While copper found in everyday brass items such as door handles and water taps has an antimicrobial effect on bacteria and is widely used to prevent the spread of disease, Dr John Bond OBE (pictured) from the Department of Chemistry has discovered that peoples’ sweat can, within an hour of contact with the brass, produce sufficient corrosion to adversely affect its use to kill a range of microorganisms, such as those which might be encountered in a hospital and which can be easily transferred by touch or by a lack of hand hygiene.

The research paper entitled ‘Electrochemical behaviour of brass in chloride solution concentrations found in eccrine fingerprint sweat’, published in the journal ‘Applied Surface Science’ was co-authored by Elaine Lieu as part of a third year Interdisciplinary Science project investigating how easily and quickly sweat can corrode brass at the University of Leicester.

Dr Bond said: “I would advise keeping the brass in public environments free from corrosion through regular and thorough cleaning. In the longer term, using copper alloys with corrosion inhibitors included in the alloy would be a good choice.

“While more research is needed in the study of sweat and brass corrosion, anywhere that needs to prevent the spread of bacteria, such as public buildings, schools and hospitals should be looking at using copper alloy on everyday items to help in avoiding the spread of disease.”