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Argyria is the gray/blue discoloration of the skin caused by the ingestion of certain types of silver preparations. According to studies done with electron microscopes, the blue/gray color is the result of silver compounds within the cells. The silver compounds inside the cell have been determined to be silver sulfide (sulfur) and silver selenide (selenium).
The major types of silver are metallic or ionic.
Ionic silver means the silver exists as a soluble compound with other substances, like oxides, chlorides, nitrates, citrates, acetates, etc. In its ionic state, the silver has a positive electric charge because it has donated an electron to the other part of the compound. Not all silver compounds are soluble, and therefore are not ionic. Insoluble compounds are not ionic. Silver sulfide for example is a silver compound that is not water soluble and therefore not ionic in water.
Metallic silver is a cluster of individual silver atoms about 15 billionths of a meter in diameter, and carries no net electric charge because it has not given any electrons away. However, it has an effective negative charge because its electrons are on the surface of the atoms. Opposite electric charges attract to each other, while like electric charges repel.
This difference in electric charge is very important in understanding how argyria occurs. Human cells require certain ions for life, like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium etc. Human cells carry a negative electric charge on their surface which attracts positively charged ions like sodium and potassium to their surface where they are ingested through special pores on the cell wall. Metallic silver particles are repelled by cell walls, so it is not possible for metallic silver to enter a cell and be trapped inside. Also, metallic silver particles are at least 50 times larger than an ion, and as such are far too large to enter through the cells’s pores.
Many purveyors of colloidal silver say that ionic silver cannot cause argyria because ions are the smallest size and cannot get ‘stuck’ within cells. The fallacy of this argument is that it assumes that the silver ion remains an ion, but this is untrue. Once inside the cell, the silver ions combine with sulfur inside the cell and become insoluble silver sulfide, or combine with selenium and become insoluble silver selenide. These silver compounds are very stable and there is no way for them to leave the cell.
So, ionic silver is attracted to cell walls, and will enter them the same way that the essential metal ions like sodium and potassium. Once inside, they chemically react with any sulfur or selenium in the cell and become insoluble. At that point they are stuck with no way out. As more silver becomes trapped, it begins to color the cell the characteristic blue/gray hue that Paul Karason is famous for.
Granted, it takes a long time and a lot of silver to make your skin turn blue. This is because most of the ionic silver is absorbed by the cells of a person’s internal organs long before it gets to the skin. However, it is cumulative, and builds up slowly. The first place it becomes visible is the whites of the eyes and the fingernails. Also, most of the silver which escapes being quickly absorbed by the cells of the digestive tract and liver will soon be converted to metallic silver by the glucose and other antioxidant chemicals in the blood. However, some remains as free ions circulating with the blood, and ends up in skin cells. It is the ionic silver which has been converted in the body to metallic which becomes effective against pathogens. This has been proved by electron microscope studies of metallic silver attacking bacteria.
Bacteria carry a positive electric charge, which is how they are able to enter and infect cells. This positive charge makes them attracted to metallic silver particles. When they come into contact, the difference in electric field between the two burns a hole in the cell wall of the bacteria, effectively killing it. Therefore, it would be wise to avoid ionic silver and use only metallic silver.
To tell whether your silver is metallic or ionic is very simple. Ionic silver is clear like plain water, and has a metallic taste. Metallic silver is yellow colored and is tasteless.