Coming to a home near you soon: copper sinks, cabinet fixtures and other products designed to kill bacteria.
Leetsdale-based Hussey Copper said its new line of home improvement products, when cleaned regularly, will kill more than 99.9 percent of bacteria on their surfaces within two hours and will keep fighting germs that return. Germs targeted by the copper include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
The home improvement line includes bathroom sinks, wall plates for light switches and electrical outlets, push/pull plates used on doors, cabinet fixtures and tile. They come in a copper finish as well as one that has the look of stainless steel.
The fixtures are made with a copper alloy, MD-Cu29, that has been certified to destroy bacteria by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"We think there's a big potential for it," said Hussey CEO Joseph M. Mallak. "It's at a price point that we consider every American can afford."
Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and the cost of caring for patients who develop infections during hospital stays have rekindled interest in copper's germ-fighting potential. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and other cultures used copper to sanitize water and to treat wounds, sores and skin infections.
Researchers say copper interferes with the metabolism and respiration of the germ, but there is no single reason why it is effective. Mr. Mallak said the company expects by the end of June to announce agreements with distributors and nationwide home improvement chains to sell the products. In the meantime, consumers can purchase them at a Hussey website, www.md-cu29.com.
The initiative builds on Hussey's efforts to sell the germ-destroying metal to other markets. The company is already selling to hospitals, where it is being used to reduce infections. The copper producer said it retrofitted the intensive care unit of a major hospital with copper fixtures, but Mr. Mallak declined to identify the hospital. He said agreements with other hospitals will be announced shortly.
Hussey's marketing is getting some help from Medicare and Medicaid. In October, the federal programs will begin penalizing hospitals that have the worst records in protecting patients from infections during their stays.
A study released in a medical journal last year found that using copper objects in intensive care units at three hospitals cut the number of infections patients developed during their stays by more than half.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said hospital-acquired infections kill 100,000 patients each year and add as much as $45 billion to health care costs.
Mr. Mallak said other potential markets include schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and public facilities. Hussey is providing copper for drinking fountains at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport.
The new product line is another step along the road back for Hussey, which was brought out of bankruptcy in December 2011 by Patriarch Partners, a New York private equity firm. The company produces raw metal by melting scrap, processes it into sheet, plate and other semifinished forms, and fabricates finished plants.
In addition to the Leetsdale plant, which employs about 350, Hussey also operates a plant in Eminence, Ky.
Mr. Mallak said copper for the home improvement products is made at Leetsdale. The products are made at both plants, but they are all shipped out of Leetsdale.
Len Boselovic: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1941.