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Colloidal silver is a suspension of submicroscopic metallic silver particles in a colloidal base. Long-term use of silver preparations can lead to argyria, a condition in which silver salts deposit in the skin, eyes, and internal organs, and the skin turns ashen-gray. Many cases of argyria occurred during the pre-antibiotic era when silver was a common ingredient in nosedrops. When the cause became apparent, doctors stopped recommending their use, and reputable manufacturers stopped producing them. The official drug guidebooks (United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary) have not listed colloidal silver products since 1975.
FDA laboratory studies have found that the amount of silver in some product samples has varied from 15.2% to 124% of the amount listed on the product labels. The amount of silver required to produce argyria is unknown. However, the FDA has concluded that the risk of using silver products exceeds any unsubstantiated benefit . So far, eleven cases of argyria related to silver products have been reported:
* A 56-year-old man who had sold and used colloidal silver for three years, developed blue/gray discoloration of his fingernails accompanied by a very high blood level of silver .
* A married couple who had three years of daily consumption of a drink prepared by administering an electrolytic charge to a bowl of water that contained a silver bar .
* Another couple had been taking a silver-containing "dietary supplement" prescribed by a naturopath .
* A mentally ill man who had been drinking silver-containing herbal tea for about 10 months .
* Stan Jones, Montana's Libertarian Party candidate for the U.S. Senate, who reportedly started taking colloidal silver in 1999 for fear that Y2K disruptions might lead to a shortage of antibiotics. He made his own concoction by electrically two silver wires in a glass of water .
* Two men, ages 63 and 76, developed argyria after a year of product use inspired by Internet claims .
* A 16-year-old boy developed blue-gray pigmentation of his entire body after ingesting a silver-containing dietary supplement for a year. The product, packaged so that it was identical to bottled water. was touted as a preventive for everyday infections .
* A 58-year-old man who treated a presumed kidney infection with a home-brewed colloidal solution 12 times a day for 4 days developed argyria about 4 weeks later .
* A 38-year-old man developed argyria after ingesting approximately 16 ounces of 450 ppm colloidal silver three times a day for 10 months to treat his arthritis and other conditions. He made the solution with a simple battery-operated chamber that leached silver from pure silver wire. He had obtained the plans from information on the Internet . The photograph to the right shows how his skin color compares to that of normal skin.