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There has been a great deal of research into the effects of copper-silver ionization of water on a variety of bacteria and other infectious agents. ThomsonTec makes no medical or scientific claims, but provides the following data for informational purposes only.

For more detailed information about silver and its applications to health, preventing disease outbreaks, and reducing or replacing the need for chlorine, click here.

Microbiological Evaluation of Copper: Silver Disinfection Units

AUTHORS: Kutz SM, Landeen LK, Yahya MT, and Gerba CP

PUBLICATION: Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Progress in Clinical Disinfection. State University of New York, Bighamton, New York, April 11-13, 1988

PURPOSE: Although chlorination is the traditional method of disinfecting swimming pools, hot tubs, and cooling towers to prevent outbreaks of illness due to pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, high levels of chlorine can cause eye and skin irritation was well giving rise to a noticeable chlorine odor. The authors evaluated electrolytically generated copper: silver ions alone and in combination with low levels of free chlorine as an alternative method of reducing the bacterial population in water.

The test medium was local well water which was subjected to chemical analysis, filtering, and pH stabilization and used at room temperature. Suspensions of the following organisms were prepared: Escherichia coli, Legionella pneumophila, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella TYPHII, Klebsiella terrigena, and Streptococcus faecalls. Approximately 1 ml of the selected bacterial suspension was added to 99 ml of test medium containing (1) copper: silver ions in a concentration of 400 ug/liter copper to 40 ug/liter silver, (2) free chlorine (0.2 mg/liter) alone, or (3) a combination of copper: silver ions and free chlorine (quantities as above). Cultures were incubated and the bacterial colonies enumerated, after which statistical analysis were performed.

The bacteria tested were inactivated more rapidly in a solution in which electrolytically generated copper and silver ions were added to low levels of chlorine than where either method was used separately. Some organisms were more resistant to treatment than others. In the experiments with Salmonella typehi and Klebsiella terrigena no viable cells were recovered after 30 seconds of exposure to either chlorine alone or to the combined regimen, indicating equal effectiveness when resistance to disinfection is low. On the other hand, Legionella pneumophilia titers decreased more than 5 log 10 values after 7 minutes of exposure to free chlorine (0.2 mg/liters) alone for the same length of time. Similarly, E. coli numbers were reduced by 4.2 log 10 by the combination regimen but by less than 3 log 10 after extended exposure to the copper: silver method without chlorine.

The use of electrolytically generated copper and silver ions in combination with low levels of free chlorine proved an effective method of killing a wide range of pathogenic bacteria under controlled test conditions. Such bacteria are of potential concern in swimming pools and cooling towers.

Inactivation of Poliovirus & Bacteriophage MS-2 by Copper/Silver and Reduced Levels of Free Chlorine

AUTHORS: Landeen LK, Yahya MT, and Gerba CP
PUBLICATION REF: Publication information not available

Viruses tend to be more resistant than bacteria to disinfection regimes. Although chlorination is widely used to control viral contamination, high levels of chlorine promote the formation of organic compounds in water that may be hazardous to human health. An alternative method, copper and silver ion treatment, is known to be effective against bacteria and algae. The authors tested electrolytically generated copper and silver ions, alone and in the presence of reduced levels of free chlorine, in treating water sample to which either bacteriophage MS-2 or poliovirus had been added to test effectiveness against viral contamination.

Purified bacteriophage MS-2 and poliovirus type I were prepared by standard methods in pellet form. The viral pellets were placed in samples of filtered well water. The virus-containing samples were then exposed to one of the following treatment regimens: (1) no added disinfectant, i.e. untreated control; (2) low levels of free chlorine; (3) a combination of copper: silver with free chlorine; (4) copper: silver ions without chlorine; or (5) either copper or silver without chlorine. Experiments were performed in duplicate at room temperature. Linear regression analysis was performed to calculate the viral inactivation rates for each treatment regimen.

The bacteriophage MS-2 inactivation rate for copper alone was significantly higher when the concentration reached 400 ug/liter. The MS-2 inactivation rate for electrolytically generated copper and silver ions together was greater than for either metal alone, suggesting an additive effect. Although not significant for very low levels of chlorine, the addition of 0.3 mg/liter of free chlorine to a 400/40 ug/liter copper/silver regimen significantly enhanced MS-2 inactivation rates.

Similarly for poliovirus, the activation rates achieved with the 400/40 copper/silver regimen were significantly greater as compared with untreated controls. The number of poliovirus were reduced approximately 2.5 log 10 within 72 hours. The addition of 0.3 mg/liter of free chlorine again improved the inactivation rates achieved, although in this case the improvement did not reach statistical significance. Poliovirus showed greater resistance to inactivation by any means tested than did bacteriophage MS-2.

Electrolytically generated copper and silver ions demonstrate efficacy against bacteriophage MS-2; further improvement occurs with the addition of reduced levels of free chlorine. The same regimen is capable of inactivating an enteric virus such as poliovirus in the presence or absence of free chlorine. The same regimen is capable of inactivating an enteric virus such as poliovirus in the presence or absence of free chlorine. Therefore, a regimen in which copper: silver ion treatment is combined with low levels of chlorine should prove useful as a method of disinfecting water against viral contamination.



September 26-29, 2000,
Janet E. Stout, Y.E. Lin, V.L. Yu
VA Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA
and the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Despite documentation of its efficacy in numerous hospitals, the long term efficacy of copper-silver ionization for controlling Legionella pneumophila in hospital water distribution systems has not been well documented. We conducted a survey of the first 13 hospitals in the U.S. that had implemented copper-silver ionization systems on their hot water systems for Legionella control. The mean bed size was 434 (range 150-700), 61% (8/13) performed transplant operations. 100% (13/13) had diagnosed cases of nosocomial Legionnaires' disease (LD). 30% of the hospitals installed copper-silver ionization because of problems and expense associated with the prior use of hyperchlorination. 50% had previously used thermal eradication. The average number of ionization flow cells installed per hospital was 3.4 (range 1-7), and the average start-up cost was $86,432. 46% (6/13) of hospitals had >30% of distal outlets positive before using ionization, and 0% had > 30% positive after installation. For 46% (6/13) of the hospitals, distal site positivity decreased to 0% positivity. When we conducted the survey, the ionization systems had been in place from 1 to 4 years. Ionization requires regular maintenance and the pH of water should be < 8.0 for optimal performance. Ionization is a viable option for controlling Legionella in hospital water distribution systems.

5th International Conference on Legionella
September 26-29, 2000, Ulm, German

Janet E. Stout
Infectious Disease Section,
University Drive C
Pittsburgh PA 15240USA

Disinfection of Bacteria In Water Systems by Using Electrolytically Generated Copper: Silver & Reduced Levels of Free Chlorine

AUTHORS: Yahya MT, Landeen LK, Mesina MC, Kutz SM, Schultze R, & Gerba CP
PUBLICATION REF: Canadian Journal of Microbiology 36: 109-116, 1990

The recommended minimum level of free chlorine for disinfection of public swimming pools is 1 mg/liter. This level is difficult to maintain due to the chlorine-demanding organic material introduced by bathers themselves as well as the environment. Eye and skin irritation may also occur at the minimum chlorine level needed for effective disinfection. Electrolytically generated copper/silver ions are also microbiocidal and are much less subject to degradation but are slower acting than chlorine. Therefore, the authors tested the hypothesis that using the two methods together would accomplish effective disinfection while reducing the level of free chlorine required.

Two 32-gallon plastic containers, one indoors (temperature range 22 to 25) and the second outdoors exposed to sunlight (temperature range 18 to 36) were filled with tap water. After chemical analysis and adjustment of pH and test levels of disinfectants, bath water and urine were added to stimulate typical swimming conditions. Four treatment regimens were tested: (1) No added disinfectants (2) Free chlorine alone at the generally recommended level of 1 mg/liter (3) Free chlorine at 0.3 mg/liter combined with copper and silver ions at a ration of 400 ug/liter of copper to 40 ug/liter of silver (4) Copper and silver ions alone at the same ratio as above. An isolate of Staphylococcus sp was employed for bacterial challenge testing since previous work had shown that staphylococci are more resistant to disinfection than are coli form bacteria. The experiment was continued for 12 weeks.

In the test of free chlorine alone, location proved to be critical. In the outdoor setting subject to strong sunlight and high temperatures, no residual chlorine could be detected 3 to 4 hours after optimization. Indoor, where environmental factors were much less extreme, a residual level of 0.1 to 0.3 mg/liter was found after 24 hours.
Bacterial counts were kept within drinking water standards (as recommended for swimming pools) by either high levels of chlorine alone or by the combination regimen of copper and silver ions with low levels of chlorine: the difference in total bacterial numbers was not significant. Hen challenged with Staphylococcus sp isolate, the combination of copper and silver ions with low levels of chlorine achieved a 2.4 log 10 reduction in bacterial numbers within 2 minutes, while the single-agent regimes (free chlorine alone, or copper/silver alone) showed only 1.5 & 0.03 log 10 reductions respectively. Under Staphylococcus sp challenge, the combined copper/silver and free chlorine had a faster log 10 reduction of microbial numbers than did treatment with a high level of chlorine alone.

The addition of electrolytically generated copper/silver ions in the radio tested (400 ug/liter copper to 40 ug/liter silver) allowed reduction in the concentration of free chlorine to one third of the level customarily recommended. The use of copper/silver may provide resisting protection in swimming pools after chlorine has been rendered ineffective due to contamination from swimmers and the natural environment.



                                GREEN TECHNOLOGY-WATER TREATMENT

Global warming, high energy prices and dwindling natural resources have put “green” practices and technology in the forefront of public discussion. Attention has focused on energy consumption, air and water pollution, production of heat-trapping gases and other topics. Where do point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) water treatment and bottled water fit into this big picture?

Veteran POU/POE and bottled water dealers could say they’ve always been “environmentalists” — providing people and businesses with clean water that contributes to human health and well-being. At the same time, with their knowledge of water contamination issues, many dealers and their trade associations have been energetic advocates of water supply protection.

But at the practical or technical level of conducting a water treatment or bottled water business, what does it mean to adopt “green”practices? Perhaps as importantly, how can water treatment for a sustainable environment promote dealers’ business success?

Technology always helps
Dealers looking for “green” solutions for their customers won’t find a shortage of products, systems and techniques from manufacturers and distributors who tout their products as helping to reduce environmental impacts, reduce energy consumption, etc. Many of the latest such POU/POE or bottled water products do, in fact, represent technical innovations or tweaks that do any or all of the following:

  • Reduce energy consumption (as in water treatment system components or appliances). One example of this might be digital water system controls that minimize pump operations or water consumption (which influences pump operation) to only that which is necessary for proper treatment.
  • Reduce or minimize chemical or raw materials consumption in water treatment or bottled water production. Examples of this might be ozonation, ionization or ultraviolet disinfection to reduce dependency on chlorination, or the recent expansion of ultrafiltration applications.
  • Reduce wastewater discharges that are a consequence of POU/POE treatment. Minimizing brine discharge with demand-initiated regeneration controls is one common example, but there might be other techniques, such as sequestration and off-site destruction or decontamination of toxic contaminants that could accumulate in a system, such as arsenic.
  • Reduce water consumption (see sidebar, Page 25). While it’s a good idea generally to conserve water resources, the dealer also can focus this as it applies to home and commercial treatment systems and plumbing.

Certification issues
Trade associations and certifying bodies in the POU/POE and bottled water industries aren’t standing still when it comes to “green” issues.

For instance, the Water Quality Association (WQA) this year will begin to assist the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense water-efficiency program by helping EPA develop water-efficiency standards for POU/POE products. WQA also has invited presenters at its WQA Aquatech USA trade show in March 2008 to submit papers on “green” water treatment, among other topics.

The federal government’s ENERGY STAR program now lists qualifying energy-efficient products in at least three categories of interest to dealers: water coolers, commercial ice makers, and geothermal heat pumps.

Through the NSF International and WQA Gold Seal systems, products are certified to meet certain agreed-upon performance or materials standards in water treatment. More “green” standards for POU/POE products are bound to emerge from those same certifying organizations.

The US Green Building Council provides its voluntary Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for measuring the environmental impact and efficiency of buildings. The water systems component of that, however, is still in its infancy.

Only pale ‘green’?
Dealers must keep a careful eye out for products claiming to have certain “green” qualities that either don’t meet some objective, scientific criteria for those qualities or have been given that kind of label to serve only a marketing function.

Some can stray into uncharted territory in that regard. For instance, a pro-green Web site, sustainableBusiness.com, recently gave a top “green” ranking to a company that the site says offers chemical-free water treatment. The company’s specialty, it turns out, is magnetic water conditioning, a highly controversial (and, some say, unproven) area.

Look for the less-conventional
Still, dealers shouldn’t automatically shun technologies simply because they’re less conventional. They can still be genuinely “green” and offer value to customers and more business for dealers.

A number of low-chemical or no-chemical descaling systems are now getting a second look, for instance.

Solar-powered water systems for individual homes and businesses are becoming more common, and solar has made considerable inroads into the municipal treatment sector.

Even rainwater collection systems could become more common in the developed world. Dealers can educate consumers about how collected rainwater, presumably pristine but still containing organic and inorganic debris, still must be treated.

In any case, “green” water treatment appears to hold promise for the Earth, and for dealers’ bottom lines. 

© 2010 ThomsonTec
Water Conditioning Systems Technology, 2616 Balsam Court, Madera, California, 93637
1-800-646-2224, Fax 559-673-3381, Email: sales@thomsontec.com