Is Silver a Toxic “Heavy Metal”?
Silver is often referred to by its detractors – in ominous, sensationalistic tones – as a “toxic heavy metal.”
But is this true? Or is it just overblown rhetoric and propaganda from those with a vested interest in keeping people in abject fear of silver, and in ignorance of its powerful healing and infection-fighting qualities?
Let’s face it. Just about anything can be toxic if used abusively. But as I’ll explain below, silver is not in the least bit toxic when used within reason and moderation.
Here’s what you need to know…
Hi, Steve Barwick here, for The Silver Edge…
Silver, gold, copper and platinum are noble metals, not “heavy metals” like mercury, plutonium or lead.
The confusion comes in because silver has been used alongside of mercury for decades, in mercury amalgam fillings.
In dentistry, the silver, a noble metal, is combined with mercury, a toxic heavy metal, because silver helps defeat many of mercury’s toxic qualities by acting as a stabilizer. And it provides antimicrobial protection as well.
Because the two metals are used together in dentistry, people tend to lump them together. But nothing could be further from the truth.
As Harvard-educated Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. states:
“Silver belongs to the family of metals that also includes copper and gold (both of which can also have numerous health benefits when they’re used properly).
One of the primary concerns people tend to have about using these metals is the risk that they’ll accumulate in the body and lead to ‘heavy metal toxicity’.
But if you have plenty of antioxidants in your diet, such as selenium, vitamin E, and amino acids like N-acetyl cysteine, you’re safe from any harmful effects from this family of metals. Germs, however, are not.”
In other words, the body has a perfectly good mechanism for processing and eliminating silver, as long as the proper antioxidants are present.
Indeed, people have safely been ingesting silver in small amounts for thousands of years. As the Dartmouth University Toxic Metals Research Program states:
“Trace amounts of silver are in the bodies of all humans and animals. We normally take in between 70 and 88 micrograms of silver a day, half of that amount from our diet.
Humans have evolved with efficient methods of dealing with that intake, however. Over 99 percent is readily excreted from the body.
Is silver harmful to humans?
Unlike other metals such as lead and mercury, silver is not toxic to humans and is not known to cause cancer, reproductive or neurological damage, or other chronic adverse effects.”
As Britain’s greatest expert on the use of silver in healthcare, Dr. Alan B.G. Lansdown has stated:
“Contrary to statements that all forms of silver are cumulative once they enter body tissues and that very little is excreted, silver is actively metabolized in the human body and a large part eliminated eventually via the liver, urine and hair…
…there is very little substantive evidence that silver acts either as a cumulative poison in the human body like lead and mercury, or that it reaches toxic levels in any tissue.
Silver does accumulate preferentially in the basement membrane region of the dermis, but no evidence has been seen to show that this is either life-threatening or a clinical manifestation of toxicity.”
— “Silver in Healthcare: Its Antimicrobial Efficacy and Safety in Use,” by Alan B. G.Lansdown, pg. 45, 59, 60
According to researchers Drake and Hazelwood, in the study “Exposure-Related Health Effects of Silver and Silver Compounds: A Review” (see earlier link for full study):
“Silver in any form is not thought to be toxic to the immune, cardiovascular, nervous, or reproductive systems (ATSDR, 1990) and is not considered to be carcinogenic (Furst andSchlauder, 1978).”
And as stated in the April 2010 issue of Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance, metals such as silver, copper and gold are noble metals, not “heavy metals”:
“Noble metals such as copper, gold, and silver have broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity.
For example, silver has several effects on microorganisms, including impeding the electron transport system and preventing DNA replication…
…In previous studies, silver has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against a broad range of fungi, viruses, and bacteria.”
In the January 28, 2016 issue of the journal Nanoscale Research Letters, researchers also point out that silver is a noble metal:
“Nanoparticles made of noble metals have also received attention over the last few years, as they can be used in medicine, biology, material science, physics, and chemistry.
Among the several noble metal nanoparticles, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) have attracted special attention due to their distinct properties, which include favorable electrical conductivity, chemical stability, and catalytic and antibacterial activity.”
Finally, as stated in an article titled “Nanosilver: Naughty or Nice?”, published by the Society for Science & the Public:
“Jim Hutchison is a chemist and an expert in nanoparticles at the University of Oregon in Eugene…
…So far, Hutchison’s research suggests nanosilver and the silver ions it sheds probably aren’t harmful to people…
‘You can never prove every technology is going to be safe before you use it,’ he says. ‘But silver doesn’t seem to be toxic to us.’
In a 2011 study published in the journal ACS Nano, Hutchison’s team looked at silver jewelry and eating utensils under high-powered microscopes. They found the solid silver products were shedding nanoparticles.
‘This means nanosilver has been in contact with humans for a long, long time,’ he says. And that, he concludes, ‘should be reassuring, because those exposures don’t seem to have caused harm.’
…Ramune Reliene, a cancer researcher at State University of New York in Albany, says that studies do show that nanosilver can damage human cells. But those studies exposed cells to anywhere from 100 to 10,000 times more nanosilver than people currently encounter in the environment.
…Also, the cells were in a Petri dish. A cell inside a living creature works differently than it does in some dish in the lab.
…Andrew Maynard, an environmental health scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is doing similar research into silver’s effects on the body. His team has not published their data yet, but they are willing to share some early findings.
Chief among them: Maynard says his group ‘saw virtually no ill effect’ of feeding mice very high levels of nanosilver for up to 28 days.”
The bottom line is that silver is not a “heavy metal.” And any “toxicity” is strictly related to taking excessive dosages.
“The Dose is the Poison”
After all, anything on the face of the earth can be toxic if ingested in excessive dosages. As the ancient physician Paracelcus used to teach:
“Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.”
— Paracelsus PA (1493-1541)
In other words, there’s no substance on the face of the earth that’s not harmful at some dosage level.
Most common nutritional minerals in your daily, multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, for example, can be extremely toxic if taken in excessive dosages.
- The mineral selenium can cause nervous system damage when ingested in excessively high doses.
- The mineral iron can cause heart disease and other serious problems when ingested in overly high doses.
- The mineral copper, in excessive dosages, can be a nervous system toxin.
- Zinc or any of the other minerals that are essential to human health, and which you probably take every day in your daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, can be toxic if ingested in excessive quantities.
I could go on and on through all of the minerals, but I think you get the point. This does not make any of these nutritional minerals “heavy metals” or “toxins.” It just makes excessive usage of them problematic.
The same is true with silver. Silver is virtually harmless when used in small daily amounts (except in extremely rare cases of silver allergy, in which the most common side effect is rash or hives).
But like all other minerals silver can be toxic if used abusively over long periods of time. So the key is to use silver in moderation – just like you do with minerals like iron, selenium, zinc, or chromium – and not in excessive quantities over long periods of time.
It’s All a Matter of Perspective
It might surprise you to learn that in many countries, silver is consumed orally, literally by the tons every single year.
For example, in India, several times a year during certain festivals, as well as at weddings and at the traditional outdoor food bazaars, the people eat traditional Indian sweets. And these sweets are wrapped in a pure silver foil called Varak (or Varakh) that’s been beaten thin so it can be used to wrap the food.
These sweets are generally ingested silver foil and all by the Indian people. This has been going on for thousands of years in India. Just about everybody there does it. (See article here.)
And there’s apparently never been any cases whatsoever of “silver poisoning” or harm from “heavy metal toxicity” from this traditional cultural activity.
Indeed, the government of India has approved silver foil as a food-grade ingredient, as long as it’s 99.9% purity or better.
In other words, the Indian government doesn’t limit the use of edible silver, but they do regulate the purity of the silver that can be used in food applications and eaten, allowing their citizens to eat only the purest silver possible!
(See “Justifying the Need to Prescribe Limits for Toxic Metal Contaminants in Food-Grade Silver Foils, journal of Food Additives and Contaminants, 2005 Dec;22(12):1219-23.)
As stated in the journal Materials Research Innovations, Vol. 11, No. 1, (2007) pages 3-18:
“A recent paper by Das et al. provides the remarkable datum that some 275,000 kg [i.e., 605,000 pounds – ED] of edible metallic silver foil are consumed every year (in food) in India.
No known adverse health effects have ever been recorded. This epidemiological evidence that silver as a metal is not toxic in any way needs no further comment.
Further support for the obvious safety of consuming metallic silver (Ag0) is in the worldwide consumption of (so called) silver colloids, often made at home in primitive electrochemical cells by probably some millions of citizens, again with no ill effects.”
— Das, M. Dixit, S. Khanna, S. K., Food Additives and Contaminants
Again, that’s an astonishing 605,000 pounds – or 302.5 tons – of silver are ingested every single year in food, in India. You’d think the entire population of India would be in the hospital suffering from “heavy metal poisoning” by now, but obviously they’re not.
As Keith Moeller of American Biotech Labs has pointed out in his very interesting White Paper titled “The Safety of Using Silver Solutions and the Risk of Argyria”:
“It is estimated that the Indian tradition of eating candy and cakes wrapped in metallic silver foil (eaten foil and all) came from their historically gained knowledge that in their warm, moist climate with little refrigeration of foods, eating the silver-covered candy and cakes after meals would kill the bacteria consumed with the food, before it had a chance to do damage to their body systems.
In other words, the people of India have proven over the last thousand years that eating or consuming small amounts of metallic silver in traditional Indian foods has no negative effect on the body or body systems.”
— Keith Moeller, The Safety of Using Silver Solutions and the Risk of Argyria, American Biotech Labs, January 15th, 2008
New Clinical Safety Study
Interestingly, researchers at the University of Utah recently released the first-ever double-blind, placebo-controlled human ingestion safety study of colloidal silver, and found zero signs of “toxicity” or other detrimental effects on the human body from the daily ingestion of small amounts of colloidal silver.
What was most fascinating to me was that as a preliminary to the study, the researchers conducted MRI scans and blood work on one individual who had been using small daily amounts of colloidal silver for 15 years, and could find no evidence whatsoever of silver deposition in the tissues or organs, and no signs of toxicity either.
You can read my article on this recent study at this link.
So I think that carries along pretty well with the notion that the vast majority of ingested silver is indeed effectively eliminated from the body, and causes no “toxicity” at all as long as excessive/abusive amounts are not taken that could overwhelm the body’s built-in mechanisms for eliminating silver.
Use of Silver in Foods in
Europe, India and the U.S.
Silver is also used in foods in both the U.S. and throughout Europe.
Indeed, for hundreds of years here in the U.S., cake decorators have added silver dragees (those little tiny silver balls) to cakes and cupcakes.
Most people don’t know those little silver balls contain a combination of pure, ground-up silver mixed with sugar. Yet in all of these years, there was never a case of “poisoning by dragee” or “heavy metal toxicity by dragee,” even though Americans have eaten literally tons of these silver-based sweets on baked goods and cakes.
Heck, when I was a kid my mom was a cake decorator, and I used to pick those little silver balls off the cupcakes and eat them first because they tasted so good.
Sometimes I’d even swipe her little plastic container full of silver dragees from the kitchen cupboard and eat them all. Now that was probably 45 or 50 years ago, and I was never harmed by it.
But now apparently some money-grubbing lawyer has started suing U.S. companies that make the silver dragees, claiming the silver is “toxic.” As a result, most companies that sell silver dragees now print the words “for decorative purposes only” on the package.
According to the news articles I’ve read, this lawyer openly admits he’s never been able to find anyone who’s been harmed by consuming the little silver dragees. Nevertheless, he’s actually won some court victories by claiming silver is a ‘toxic metal’ and the companies selling the dragees are acting irresponsibly by selling them as a food item.
According to news reports, he uses a “protect the children” approach, which of course, gains him great sympathy from ignorant trial jury members who believe his claims of “toxic silver” even though these little silver balls have been consumed by kids and adults alike for many decades here in the U.S. and there’s never been a single person harmed by eating them.
In Europe, silver is also allowed as a food ingredient in cakes, candies and other sweet goods. In fact, in the European Union silver has its own “E-number,” meaning its own food additive approval number, which is E 174.
It’s approved in quantum satis, meaning in practically unlimited amounts, as long as it’s pure, and is used as a food “colorant” in decorative cakes, candies or other sweets, such as the little silver dragees discussed above. It’s apparently even approved for use in the ultra-thin sheets such as those used on sweets in India.
Here’s what the EU document allowing the use of silver as a food additive states:
“E 174 (Silver) is used to decorate cakes, candies, and other sweets, and Annex IV of Directive 94/36 allows unlimited use (quantum satis) of this colourant in foods.
The standards for purity regarding E 174 (Silver) are reported in EC Directive 94/45 of the 26 July 1995 Commission, which deals withcolourants that can be used in foods.
The Directive notes that silver presents as a powder composed of finely ground particles of the metal. The metal can also be transformed into ultra-thin sheets or films.”
According to Anders Sultan, Sweden’s largest manufacturer of colloidal silver:
“In Europe one of those tiny silver balls used in sweet foods like cakes and candies contains the equivalent of 30 ml [i.e., a little over one fluid ounce – ED] of 10 ppm colloidal silver.
That’s 300 micro grams per decoration ball. Two year old kids usually have ten or more of these on a piece of birthday cake.
That is the same as drinking 300 ml [i.e., a little over 10 ounces – ED] of a 10 ppm colloidal silver product.”
Well, all I can say is I hope the damned lawyers in Europe don’t find out about this, or they’ll be suing the European Union health and food authorities for promoting “toxic heavy metal poisoning” of children.
Finally, according to a study published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants (2005 Dec; 22(12):1219-23), even the United Nations and the World Health Organization have approved of pure silver as a food additive.
Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO and the World Health Organization WHO, which evaluate the safety of food additives, has included silver in the list of approved food additives for use world-wide.
Look At the Facts
So when you can step back and look at the facts, the whole idea that silver is a “toxic heavy metal” is ridiculously overblown.
As Keith Moeller of American Biotech Labs has pointed out:
“As of late, many doctors, scientists, and now the media, have been claiming that silver is a problem because it is a ‘heavy metal,’ and as such can poison the body.
The problem is not with the silver but with the misinformation and inaccurate knowledge being spread by the people speaking about silver.
The real answer is that silver is not toxic when used at reasonable levels and quantities. Any substance, even water, in excessive amounts can be fatal.
Toxic nephropathy or heavy metal poisoning is defined as, “Any functional or morphologic change in the kidney produced by an ingested, injected, inhaled, or absorbed drug, chemical, or biological agent.”
The MERCK Manual is sometimes referred to as the “Scientific Bible of Diagnosis and Therapy” by many scientists and doctors.
Silver is not listed in the manual for causing heavy metal poisoning, because it does not cause it. (See MERCK manual, 17th Edition, Pg 1880, table 226-1, third item listed, for the full list of heavy metals that cause toxic nephropathy).”
The bottom line is that tens of millions of people worldwide use products like colloidal silver regularly. And literally tons of pure silver is consumed in food items by tens of millions of people around the world.
What’s more, silver has been used in the drinking water on space flights for both the Space Shuttle and in the Russian Space Station (see here).
It’s used in Mexico to disinfect the drinking water…it’s used on cruise ships to disinfect the water…it’s used in third world countries to disinfect the drinking water (see here).
So, literally all around the world to this day silver is regularly ingested in relatively small amounts. And it virtually never causes any harm except when people get stupid and start abusing it by taking excessively large quantities on a regular basis.
Otherwise, it has a number of fabulous infection-fighting and health-promoting qualities which you can read about on the Colloidal Silver Success Stories website.
Mom’s Protective Rule
Clearly, if silver was actually a “toxic heavy metal” it would not be approved as a food additive by the governments of India, America, the European Union, or organizations like the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
Could you imagine actual toxic heavy metals like lead or mercury being approved of as food ingredients in this day and age? Of course not.
But the reality that silver is approved virtually worldwide as a food ingredient, as well as a nutritional supplement in most countries, won’t stop people with hidden vested interests (usually drug company shills) from making the sensationalistic claim that silver is a “toxic heavy metal.”
We just have to make our own decisions, from the facts at hand, and take responsibility for our own personal choices.
When I was a very young child my mother taught me a simple rule to live by: “Moderation in all things.”
Whenever I’ve stepped outside of the boundaries of that rule for any prolonged period of time, I’ve usually paid quite a price for it. And when I’ve lived by that rule, I’ve done pretty well.
It’s common sense that taking substances abusively – regardless of how otherwise benign they may be – can lead to harm.
And considering the fact that over the past few decades a very tiny handful of people who have taken colloidal silver abusively have ended up with what have been described as toxicity issues, I think I’ll stick to the “moderation in all things” rule when taking colloidal silver.
I’ve been taking colloidal silver almost daily for nearly 20 years now, in relatively small dosages of an ounce a day or less, on average, and have had only good and healthful experiences with it.
If I’m experiencing an infection or illness of some kind, I might dramatically increase my colloidal silver dosage, sometimes to as much as four ounces, two or three times a day.
But afterwards I always take a nice two or three week “vacation” away from colloidal silver usage, during which time I drink lots of fresh, pure water to help flush any excess silver out from my kidneys and liver.
Then I go back to my normal (for me) one ounce a day daily regimen. Some people say I’m overly-cautious. And so be it. I think it’s prudent not to take excessive amounts of colloidal silver daily for long periods of time.
What’s more, I always take the antioxidant supplements known to help the human body process silver efficiently and effectively – supplements recommended by Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., such as Vitamin E, selenium and N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC).
And I regularly supplement with a good, probiotic supplement composed of a “grid” of beneficial digestive microbes, just in case my colloidal silver usage kills off any of the good bacteria in my digestive tract.
The bottom line is that I thoroughly believe in my mom’s old maxim of “moderation in all things.” It’s never let me down. And I’d like to keep it that way. So I won’t abuse colloidal silver (or any other substance, frankly) by taking excessive amounts.
To learn more about colloidal silver and safety, read my article “Is Colloidal Silver Safe to Use?” at this link.
To learn about determining a safe daily dosage of colloidal silver, based on your body weight and the ppm (i.e., concentration) of colloidal silver you’re taking, see the first chapter in my 30-page Colloidal Silver Safe Dosage Report (yours FREE by email, at this link).
To learn how to make your own high-quality colloidal silver,
quickly and easily, in the comfort and privacy of your own home, and for less than 36 cents a quart, just click the link in this sentence.
Meanwhile, I’ll be back next week with another great article on colloidal silver….
Yours for the safe, sane and responsible use of colloidal silver,
Steve Barwick, author
The Ultimate Colloidal Silver Manual
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Important Note and Disclaimer: The contents of this Ezine have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Information conveyed herein is from sources deemed to be accurate and reliable, but no guarantee can be made in regards to the accuracy and reliability thereof. The author, Steve Barwick, is a natural health journalist with over 30 years of experience writing professionally about natural health topics. He is not a doctor. Therefore, nothing stated in this Ezine should be construed as prescriptive in nature, nor is any part of this Ezine meant to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Nothing reported herein is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The author is simply reporting in journalistic fashion what he has learned during the past 17 years of journalistic research into colloidal silver and its usage. Therefore, the information and data presented should be considered for informational purposes only, and approached with caution. Readers should verify for themselves, and to their own satisfaction, from other knowledgeable sources such as their doctor, the accuracy and reliability of all reports, ideas, conclusions, comments and opinions stated herein. All important health care decisions should be made under the guidance and direction of a legitimate, knowledgeable and experienced health care professional. Readers are solely responsible for their choices. The author and publisher disclaim responsibility and/or liability for any loss or hardship that may be incurred as a result of the use or application of any information included in this Ezine.
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