In August 2010, a collapse occurred in a mine in Chile, trapping 33 miners about 700 m below ground. The miners were discovered 17 days later via a drilled borehole. The underground conditions were very harsh, with high temperatures ( 34°C) and high humidity (approximately 85%). Within 2 weeks, most miners were experiencing skin problems, mostly in their feet. An antifungal cream, clotrimazole, was delivered to the miners through the borehole, but their skin maladies did not improve. Thirty-six days after being trapped, each miner received 3 pairs of socks containing copper oxide particles. The potent antifungal and antimicrobial properties of copper are very well documented.
When the polyester yarn component of socks is permanently impregnated with copper oxide particles , the socks are imbued with copper’s potent biocidal properties and have been shown to successfully treat fungal infections.
When rescued, after being 69 days underground, 3 miners had tinea pedis; 7 had plantar xerosis; 2 had pityriasis versicolor; 3 had dyshidrotic eczema; and 1 had onychomycosis. Overall, their skin condition, especially on their feet, was extremely good despite 69 days of exposure to an environment that promoted the growth of skin-damaging microbes. The miners reported that a significant improvement in their skin diseases had occurred while they were still underground after they began to use the socks.
To understand the effect of the Cupron socks (Cupron Inc), a questionnaire was completed by 19 miners, most of whom had experienced significant discomfort, skin irritation, dry skin, and/or skin scaling in their feet after they were trapped underground. These are all characteristics of fungal infections but may be a component of irritant dermatitis. Remarkably, after beginning to use the socks while still underground, the miners reported that these skin maladies disappeared, in most cases within 4 to 7 days. Based on the severity scores given by the miners, there was a statistically significant reduction (P .001) in these parameters and in the general discomfort they felt after using the socks. Almost all miners reported that they had also experienced a bad smell from their feet, which also disappeared a few days after they began to use the socks.
Authors: Gadi Borkow, Juan Carlos Mellibovsky. Resolution of Skin Maladies of the Trapped Chilean Miners: The Unplanned Underground Copper-Impregnated Antifungal Socks “Trial”. Department of Dermatology, Regional Hospital of Copiapo, Atacama, Chile (DrMellibovsky)ARCH DERMATOL/ VOL 148 (NO. 1), JAN 2012