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Does silver turn you blue?

By Shaun Holt

When Mike and I were discussing colloidal silver a long time ago, I joked that having too much could make a person turn a blue colour forever, like a smurf.

He didn't quite find it as funny as I did and gets annoyed when I regularly mention this, especially as I often try to do so at inappropriate times. Is there any truth in what I said though?

Silver has no biological role in the body but it does have strong antibacterial effects and has been used medically for centuries. Silver vessels were used to preserve food and water in ancient times, silver foils and sutures were used to prevent wound infection in the 1800s.

Silver has been used in many formats, most notably colloids (fine particles). In fact, until the discovery and introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, colloidal silver was considered to be the main antimicrobial therapy.

But does it make you go blue? Yes it can, in excess, and this has been recorded for centuries. For example, during plagues, it was observed that some people seemed to have a blue colour and they seemed to be less susceptible to the disease. It is now known that the silver that they took helped keep them alive but caused this side effect. More recently, wealthy families who used silver eating utensils sometimes developed a blue skin discolouration and were known as "blue bloods".

Skin blueness caused by silver is known as argyria. It is a rare condition caused by a build-up of silver in the body over a long time. It is easily diagnosed as the skin, particularly where it is exposed to the sun, and the eyes, develop a blue-gray colour. Internal organs also develop the discolouration. Interestingly, the change in colour, unlike something like jaundice, is permanent. There are no good treatments either. Laser therapy or micro dermabrasion may help a little bit, but otherwise all a person can do is cover it with makeup.

As well as getting too much silver from silver-containing medicines and dietary supplements, argyria can also occur in people who work with silver, such as in mining, who may breathe in a lot of particles.

For people who take the recommended dose of colloidal silver, there is little to no risk - it only occurs when high doses are consumed for a long period of time.

This principle applies to almost all dietary supplements. Something may be good for us, but it does not follow that taking a massive dose of it will be really good for us. Usually it is the opposite and it is harmful.

For those of you taking colloidal silver, if you think it helps then there is no need to be concerned, just don't overdo it.