3 Reasons Copper is Safe and Reliable for Medical Gas Distribution

3 Reasons Copper is Safe and Reliable for Medical Gas Distribution
14 Dec 2016

By Andrew Kireta, Jr.

Vice President, Copper Development Association

Count backwards from 100 to zero. It’s the all-too-familiar phrase said by anesthesiologists and medical professionals as medical gas begins flowing into a patient’s facemask. We expect this air to be clean and safe – copper plays a huge role in ensuring these expectations.


Whether in surgery at a hospital, in care at a dentist’s office or in treatment at an out-patient facility, copper tubing plays an integral part in the medical procedure. The healthcare industry routinely uses copper tubing to dispense compressed medical air, oxygen and nitrous oxide that is critical for patient treatment and care because of its internal cleanliness, durability, longevity and low-maintenance. Below are three reasons copper is the preferred material for medical gas distribution:

1) Copper Doesn’t Burn

One of the advantages of copper over plastic is that copper doesn’t burn, and it doesn’t add smoke in the event of a fire. Copper’s melting point is 1,984 degrees Fahrenheit, far higher than that of plastic, which will soften at about 300 degrees and will emit smoke when exposed to flames. Plastic tubing also expands and contracts up to 10 times more than copper when exposed to intense heat, making it less likely that the system can be put back into service following an event.

2) Copper is Long-lasting

While alternative materials might be considered to control construction costs, medical facility contractors consistently trust copper because of the long-term payback guaranteed by its versatility, reliability and dependable performance.

3) Copper is Impermeable

Copper is an excellent choice for medical gas systems. When used with clean, dry gases, copper’s inner surface does not react with these gases and will not impart an odor to the gas being conveyed, unless installed incorrectly. By comparison, plastic plumbing carries the risk of contamination, as the material can foster bacterial growth if not properly maintained. When exposed to high heat or fires, plastic has the potential to release toxins due to its composition. The semi-permeable membrane of plastic plumbing also has the potential to allow contaminates to enter the water stream.

In North America, the model codes for healthcare facility construction include the NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code in the U.S. and CSA Z 7396.1 Medical Gas Pipeline Systems in Canada. For more information on how to properly install a medical gas system watch the video below.



  1. What makes this even more significant is that these decisions were made at a time when the cost of copper was on an almost historic rise, which indicates that utilities found reliability trumps short-term cost in their overall infrastructure investment. Most of the knowledge on the health, safety and reliability of piping materials comes from long-term use and service.

  2. Good read. It’s nice to know that copper tubes are the preferred materials for medical gas distribution because of its benefits. It being impermeable is such a good thing because we certainly don’t want anything that allows contamination. Thanks for sharing!

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