There’s a lot of FUD going on about the novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic right now. It’s caused disposable gloves and face masks to sell out across the world, leaving folks who actually need them and can use them properly without the ability to actually acquire and use them. It’s also caused hand sanitizer, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, chlorine bleach, and other cleansers to sell out. I decided to work out alternative solutions to a lot of the use cases these products would usually be employed for. This post covers the tinkering I’ve been doing and the solutions I’ve made for using every day when I must venture outside home quarantine (i.e. a perishable grocery run.)
I think it’s useful to put up some reference links before the rest of the content so you can follow my rationale and not just blindly trust what I’m saying. Disinformation is not helpful, especially right now.
WHO: Glove Use Information Leaflet
Publication Date: 2009 Aug
- “The use of gloves when not indicated represents a waste of resources and does not contribute to a reduction of cross-transmission.
- It may also result in missed opportunities for hand hygiene.
- The use of contaminated gloves caused by inappropriate storage, inappropriate moments and techniques for donning and removing, may also result in germ transmission.”
WHO: When and How to Use Masks
Publication Date: 2020
- “If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.“
VICE: Copper Destroys Viruses and Bacteria. Why Isn’t It Everywhere?
Publication Date: 2020 Mar 18
“It could destroy norovirus, MRSA, virulent strains of E. coli, and coronaviruses—including the novel strain currently causing the COVID-19 pandemic.”
NIH: Metallic Copper as an Antimicrobial Surface
Publication Date: 2010 Dec 30
“Bacteria, yeasts, and viruses are rapidly killed on metallic copper surfaces, and the term “contact killing” has been coined for this process. While the phenomenon was already known in ancient times, it is currently receiving renewed attention. This is due to the potential use of copper as an antibacterial material in health care settings. Contact killing was observed to take place at a rate of at least 7 to 8 logs per hour, and no live microorganisms were generally recovered from copper surfaces after prolonged incubation. The antimicrobial activity of copper and copper alloys is now well established, and copper has recently been registered at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the first solid antimicrobial material. In several clinical studies, copper has been evaluated for use on touch surfaces, such as door handles, bathroom fixtures, or bed rails, in attempts to curb nosocomial infections.”
Science Daily: Using Copper to Prevent the Spread of Respiratory Viruses
Publication Date: 2015 Nov 10
“Copper can effectively help to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, which are linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), new research shows. Animal coronaviruses that ‘host jump’ to humans, such as SARS and MERS, result in severe infections with high mortality. Researchers found that a closely-related human coronavirus – 229E – can remain infectious on common surface materials for several days, but is rapidly destroyed on copper.”
NIH: Copper: Toxicological Relevance and Mechanisms
Publication Date: 2014 Sep 9
It is important to note that too much copper can be toxic, but limiting surface and respiratory exposure to brief periods of time only as needed for vital trips out of quarantine should mitigate harmful exposure levels for most healthy individuals. It is also noteworthy that many people are actually copper-deficient, so there may even be a positive benefit to copper usage in preventing disease.
“Copper (Cu) is a vital mineral essential for many biological processes. The vast majority of all Cu in healthy humans is associated with enzyme prosthetic groups or bound to proteins. Cu homeostasis is tightly regulated through a complex system of Cu transporters and chaperone proteins. Excess or toxicity of Cu, which is associated with the pathogenesis of hepatic disorder, neurodegenerative changes and other disease conditions, can occur when Cu homeostasis is disrupted.”
NIH: Evaluation of an Ultraviolet C (UVC) Light-Emitting Device for Disinfection of High Touch Surfaces in Hospital Critical Areas
Publication Date: 2019 Sep 24
“Implementation of environmental cleaning and disinfection has been shown to reduce the incidences of healthcare-associated infections. The effect of an enhanced strategy for terminal room disinfection, applying the pulsed xenon-based ultraviolet light no-touch disinfection systems (PX-UVC) after the current standard operating protocol (SOP) was evaluated. In a teaching hospital, the effectiveness in reducing the total bacterial count (TBC) and in eliminating high-concern microorganisms was assessed on five high-touch surfaces in different critical areas, immediately pre- and post-cleaning and disinfection procedures (345 sampling sites). PX-UVC showed only 18% (15/85) of positive samples after treatment compared to 63% (72/115) after SOP. The effectiveness of PX-UVC was also observed in the absence of manual cleaning and application of a chemical disinfectant.”
This all builds to a few conclusions. First, casual inexperienced use of disposable gloves is security theater at best, and detrimental to public health and healthcare workers at worst. Second, copper is clearly an important material to use and it is not being used nearly enough to combat the pandemic. Third, UV-C light is effective when used in combination cleaning strategies at home. Fourth, developing solutions that can be crafted at home is important because we need to alleviate the strain on mass production of PPE needed for healthcare workers, and it’s sustainable into the future. Fifth, reusable tools that can be carried on your person are better for the environment and help prevent dumb common ways of spreading disease in general. Sixth, it’s clear that the above strategies can not only help reduce the chance of contracting COVID-19, but also SARS, influenza, the common cold, MRSA, and other viruses and bacteria.
With all this knowledge in mind, I set about creating an everyday carry kit for venturing outside of the home quarantine. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Some of it exists, some of it is planned, some is in progress. The overall premise is to keep copper particles constantly spread on the hands and face, and to distribute the surface area of the copper as much as possible without impeding range of motion and comfort too much, while out in public.
- Copper mesh gloves (in design, see details below).
- Balaclava with copper mesh inner layer (in design, see details below).
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (already in use, no details needed).
- Bic lighter tool (already in use, see details below).
- Personal-use ink pen (don’t use anyone else’s pen!!) (already in use, no details needed). A solid copper ink pen is planned.
- Copper ingot to keep in pocket as a fidget stone (in shipment).
- Copper jewelry rings (in shipment).
I’ve also purchased a UV-C surface sterilizer so I can avoid running out of traditional household cleansers. A combination of UV-C treatment and lesser amounts of chlorine bleach does the trick. Seems a lot more sustainable and effective in the long-run. Here’s the one I got: GermAwayUV 18 Watt Handheld UVC Surface Sterilizer
NOTE: I am trying hard not to be irresponsible. I am only venturing out for critical needs such as perishable groceries and animal medical treatment. Do not break quarantine for non-necessary activities.
Copper Mesh Gloves
I am currently prototyping designs. I bought COLDBREAK MESH100 Copper Mesh from Amazon. I know Amazon is not everyone’s cup of tea, and copper mesh can be found elsewhere. It’s commonly used in pest control (particularly rodent) applications, so that’s a way you can search for a supplier to buy from.
This is my first iteration:
Figuring out how to stitch copper mesh is interesting. I’m using 22ga steel wire as stitching thread until I develop a good technique, then I’ll switch it to copper for the production model. Rolling the ends over to form a tight hem is an absolute must.
The fingers are going to go through a few design iterations to see what’s comfortable and usable in the real world. Extending the mesh up the fingers will be one method. Simply terminating the mesh at pure copper ring jewelry on each finger is another possibility. A third is simply to leave the gloves terminating where the prototype does and have a copper ingot in my pocket as a fidget stone to get exposure on the fingers in public.
Balaclava with Copper Mesh Inner Layer
Prototyping a design using the same copper wire mesh. Initial idea is to use Velcro tape to stick the mesh inside the mouth and forehead covering surfaces of the balaclava mask to get copper particle coverage and surface area on those areas of skin. The theory is that accidental touches of the face in public would potentially be mitigated by this copper contact. Testing would really need to be done to determine the efficacy of this strategy, but I’m still going to employ it.
I don’t believe there’s sufficient evidence that a reusable cloth mask like a balaclava can serve as an effective viral barrier, so this is purely a mechanism to keep the copper mesh close to the skin.
Bic Lighter Tool
I didn’t come up with this idea on my own, but was inspired by this post on one of the 2600 Facebook groups to make my own version of this handy tool.
I use mine consistently for opening doors with handles on them (i.e. freezer cases in grocery stores), and punching in debit card PIN numbers on key pads. Here’s what mine looks like.