Copper has two key properties that make it an active ingredient in the medical devices currently being developed. First, copper is an essential trace element needed by humans, which plays a key role in many physiological processes in different tissues. For example, copper has been shown to be involved in angiogenesis and in wound healing. Second, copper has very potent antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and acaricidal properties.
Recently, a novel technology has been developed that introduces copper oxide particles into polymeric materials, where they serve as a slow release source of copper ions. For example, by using this technology, copper oxide containing wound dressings that enhance wound healing; copper oxide containing antiviral respiratory masks that reduce the risk of infection; socks that protect from athlete’s foot, and acaricidal bedding products that kill dust mites, have been developed.
While copper oxide is used as the source of copper in mineral and vitamin supplements and is considered safe, its use in medical devices, as well as in industrial and consumer products, is novel. The current manuscript reviews the safety aspects of the use of copper oxide in products that come in contact with open and closed skin.
Copper oxide products have been tested in 9 clinical trials and in several non-clinical studies and have been found to be non-irritating, non-sensitizing, and safe to use, with not even one adverse reaction recorded, both when in contact with intact and broken skin. This is in accordance with the extremely low risk of adverse reactions attributed to dermal exposure to copper.