Bacteria-killing copper to be installed on Toronto and more Vancouver transit vehicles

TTC, TransLink, Teck and Vancouver Coastal Health expand copper pilot after successful first phase


ANTIMICROBIAL copper coatings are being installed on high-touch transit surfaces on Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) vehicles and more TransLink vehicles following a successful pilot phase that supports copper’s ability to kill up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria on transit surfaces.

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 teams at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Mount Sinai Hospital/University Health Network will be undertaking regular bacteria testing, and VCH will be conducting laboratory testing on copper’s ability to kill viruses in addition to bacteria.

This trial, fully funded by Teck Resources Limited (Teck) as part of its copper and 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.

Trial Details

  • This trial will test three types of 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.
  • This trial is being conducted at no cost to either transit service

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 spaces.

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. The trial follows preceding studies conducted by the Infection Prevention and Control team at VCH that have shown copper to be highly durable and effective at killing bacteria in laboratory and healthcare settings.

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 supported copper’s ability to kill up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria on transit surfaces.

Don Lindsay, President and CEO, Teck, said: “I want to thank the TTC, TransLink and all partners for their leadership in making our communities safer using antimicrobial copper on transit. Through our Copper & Health program, Teck is working with numerous organizations to leverage copper’s unique antimicrobial properties and enhance public health and safety.” 

Kevin Quinn, TransLink CEO, said: “The pandemic has taught us to be bold and innovative to continue meeting the needs of our customers. Through this copper pilot, we have partnered with healthcare professionals to find creative ways to make transit cleaner and safer for our customers, and we’ve found that copper can kill up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria on transit surfaces so far. We’re so excited to have our industry-leading pilot expand nationally to learn more about copper’s potential health benefits on transit.”