Copper is a natural element – a metal that has been one of mankind’s most useful and valuable materials since time immemorial. It is represented by the chemical symbol Cu and the atomic number 29.
Copper is also an essential nutrient that is required by virtually all higher life forms. A natural element in the earth’s crust, copper has been incorporated into living organisms throughout the evolutionary process. Without copper, life as we know it would be impossible for most of earth’s organisms. Nature, in its myriad forms, is exceedingly well adapted to making best use of copper and protecting itself from any negative effects. This holds true at the most basic level of chemical reactions, right up to the most complex metabolic functions of the human body.
Nature regulates the uptake and excretion of copper in an almost perfect way. Copper is not magnified in the body nor bioaccumulated in the food chain. From prehistory to the present day, humanity has put copper to use to advance civilization. In present times, for example, electric technologies – and all that these advancements mean to safe, efficient modern-day living – would be impractical, if not impossible, were it not for copper’s extraordinary properties of electrical conductivity.
Copper contributes to our well-being every day. In a wide range of technological advancements – in fields ranging from medical equipment to energy efficiency, from jet planes to satellites, from radio and television to the Internet – copper has shown itself to be a metal for the future.
While technological progress has brought countless benefits, mankind has grown increasingly concerned about the impacts of technology and industry on the natural environment and human health and well-being. Since it is one of the most important materials in construction and technology, as well as an essential nutrient required for human health, the impact of copper on the environment is an area of continuing scientific and academic interest. As knowledge and understanding of these impacts grow, scientists are discovering that copper interacts with the environment in extremely complex ways. Fortunately, copper’s overall contribution is overwhelmingly beneficial – indeed, we would face serious problems without it.