Copper pilot project expands to phase two, onboarding new partners and new locations

Person inside a bus holding on to a copper bar.

Antimicrobial copper coatings have now been installed on high-touch transit surfaces in Ontario on TTC vehicles and in British Columbia on TransLink vehicles.

​Following a successful first phase which demonstrated copper's ability to kill up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria on high-touch transit surfaces, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is pleased to partner with Teck Resources Limited, TransLink, and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to launch phase two of the Copper Pilot Project. 

This new round of testing seeks to confirm those results from the first phase in Vancouver by evaluating copper surfaces on more transit vehicles over a longer duration of time across two different regions. For this phase, the medical microbiology team at VCH and Mount Sinai Hospital/University Health Network will be undertaking regular bacteria testing. VCH will be conducting simultaneous laboratory testing on copper's ability to kill viruses. 

For VCH, the Copper Pilot Project is a continuation of previous installations and evaluations of copper and other self-disinfecting surfaces in the hospital setting; both the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit and the Intensive Care Unit at Vancouver General Hospital have been outfitted with copper.​

Trial details

  • This trial will test three types of registered products including functional copper surface layers, copper alloys, and copper decals.

  • Copper products will be installed on buses, subway cars, and streetcars in the Greater Toronto Area as well as buses and SkyTrains in Metro Vancouver.

  • Samples will be analyzed from copper surfaces as well as non-copper surfaces on transit by VCH's medical microbiology team, supported by Mount Sinai Hospital/University Health Network in Toronto and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

    • These tests will occur every two months over a one-year period.

  • Researchers from the University of British Columbia will also test and analyze the durability of the three products as they age over the course of the year.

The results of this trial could improve understanding of options for infection prevention for the transit industry and other industries that rely on shared public space.

“Gaining a better understanding of the effectiveness and feasibility of using copper to kill bacteria on frequently-touched surfaces has implications that are far reaching," said Dr. Marthe Charles, Division Head of Medical Microbiology and Infection Prevention and Control at Vancouver Coastal Health.

This trial, fully funded by Teck Resources Limited (Teck) as part of its Copper & Health program, will outfit copper on high-touch surfaces on several TTC buses, subway cars, and streetcars, as well as several TransLink buses and SkyTrain cars.

The project is the result of a partnership between Teck Resources Limited, Toronto Transit Commission, TransLink, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), Mount Sinai Hospital/University Health Network, the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR), UBC Department of Materials Engineering, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, and Westech Cleaning Audit Systems.

“We are grateful for industry partners like Teck, TransLink and the TTC and all of our many partners on this project for bringing together resources and expertise in support of a shared vision of making our communities safer and healthier," added Dr. Charles. “This research could decrease our society's exposure to potential pathogens on transit and in public spaces for years to come."

Fast facts

  • Copper is the only solid metal touch surface registered as a public health product by Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, proven to naturally eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria.
  • During Phase One's five-week trial period, more than 1,140 samples were collected and analyzed by VCH at Vancouver General Hospital and at the University of British Columbia. 
  • The trial supports copper's ability to kill up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria on transit surfaces.​
TransLink's trial of copper on transit has expanded

TransLink's trial of copper on transit has expanded. Phase Two will run for one full year on more buses and SkyTrain cars.

Related stories

    • VCH partners with TransLink for new copper pilot project

    • The results are in — copper kills up to 99.9% of bacteria on transit surfaces