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Silver Safety Council
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Guidelines for the safe use of silver supplements in human health


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Last updated:
January 2, 2022

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Education & FAQ

One of the most misunderstood areas of the natural health field is ionic silver or colloidal silver. Here we will attempt to clarify the key areas of confusion.


Education

First of all, all products called ionic silver, colloidal silver, nano silver, hydrosol, or mild silver protein, are in fact just various forms of "ionic silver" products, because all of them function by providing a delivery mechanism to release silver ions in the body. Otherwise, they would be useless.

Second, when it comes to PPM or "parts per million," there is no such things as a "safer" level of PPM, and there is no such thing as a "more effective" level of PPM, simply because PPM is literally nothing more than a measure of how much water you're getting along with the silver in the product.

Third, particle size is in no way an indicator of safety or of effectiveness and, in fact, can be very misleading, partly because the results are sometimes the opposite of what you might expect and partly because there is an enormous proliferation of so-called "photos" that are being used in marketing that claim to be images of various products taken under a microscope when in fact they are, more often than not, images generated the the "back room" of the company that's using them for marketing and not by reputable independent labs (which of course would be the only basis under which you should ever give credence to such images).

Fourth, representing that a given dosage of a given silver product is safe because that much silver "matches" the EPA RfD limit is simply a false representation of the facts, since it fails to allow for the silver that's in your daily water and food intake, which is using up a good part of the RfD daily limit.


FAQ

What's the difference between ionic silver and colloidal silver?

Is a higher PPM more effective, or less safe? Is a lower PPM safer, or less effective?

Is smaller particle size better? Is it more effective? Is it safer?

A manufacturer is claiming that their silver product cannot possibly discolor the skin. Is this true?

A manufacturer is claming it's safe to take a certain amount of their product per day because that amount of silver equals the limit specified by the EPA Reference Dose (RfD). Is that accurate?

A manufacturer is claming their product cannot harm the beneficial bacteria. Is that accurate?

I was thinking about buying the equipment to make colloidal silver myself at home. Is that a good idea?

What about the "blue man" who has been in the news? Could that happen to me?


What's the difference between ionic silver and colloidal silver?

Virtually all silver supplement products, whether called ionic or colloidal, deliver silver ions and are therefore ionic silver products. Colloidal silver is just one form of ionic silver product. There are others. In all cases, they are ionic silver products because they all function by doing the same thing: delivering ionic silver to the body.

Any benefits that may be obtained from silver by the human body are obtained strictly from the ionic form of silver.

A silver ion is a silver atom that's missing an electron. Atomic silver is entirely inert and has no bioactivity whatsoever. Ionic silver is highly bioactive. However, silver ions are also very unstable and will bind up with chlorides and proteins in the mouth if not stabilized by a carrier agent. Various carrier agents exist in various silver supplements. These carrier agents may be citrate, oxides, proteins, or other substances.

Colloidal silver is simply providing one form of those various carrier agents. It primarily utilizes oxides, in the form of "silver oxide," as the carrier agent. Since so many colloidal silver products exist, they are called by different terms depending on the marketing strategy of the manufacturer: they may be called colloidal, ionic, true colloid, hydrosol, silver solution, and so forth. All of those products have essentially the same substance in the bottle, colloidal silver.

Water-soluble silver citrate is another form of ionic silver delivery mechanism. Water-soluble silver citrate is not colloidal.

The bottom line is that not all ionic silver product are colloidal, but all colloidal silver products are ionic.


Is a higher PPM more effective, or less safe? Is a lower PPM safer, or less effective?

This is a topic that seems to confuse many people, perhaps because many manufacturers circulate very misleading claims in this area.

The answers are very straightforward.

The only thing that PPM refers to is how concentrated the silver is in the bottle, or, to put it another way, how much the silver in the bottle is diluted in water. It's really the same as saying "percent concentration" but since the amounts are so tiny, rather than use percent, which is "parts per hundred," we typically use PPM, which is parts per million.

Think of it like the difference between coffee and espresso. Which one will put more mg of caffeine into your body? The answer, of course, is that how much caffeine you're going to get in your system is not determined by whether you're drinking coffee or you're drinking espresso. What matters is how much of it you drink! That's what determines how many mg of caffeine you'll get, which is what determines how "effective" it will be and how "safe" it will be!

With ionic silver products, the two factors that determine effectiveness are the delivery agent and the total quantity (mcg) of silver you consume. The one key factor that determines safety is the total quantity (mcg) of silver you consume.

The EPA RfD safety guidelines for safe total daily intake of silver are expressed strictly in terms of mcg of silver per day. PPM never comes into the picture! This is because mcg measures the actual silver consumed. PPM alone can't tell you anything about how much silver you're actually consuming.

Since total mcg of silver is what matters, not PPM (again, PPM is just the silver concentration in the water in the bottle), the Silver Safety Calculation on which the Silver Safety Guideline and the Silver Safety Pyramid are based takes care of converting PPM to mcg of silver and gives you safe usage amounts in drops.

The only usefulness PPM has is in two areas: determining optimal dosing, and comparing cost per microgram of silver. That's it! It has no bearing on effectiveness or safety whatsoever! Those two issues are determined by other factors.

Effectiveness is primarily a function of the efficiency of the carrier agent that the silver ions are married to. It depends on how well the silver ions are stabilized to get them across the walls of the mouth and gut without binding up with chlorides and proteins, and then on how well the silver ions are released once in the blood.

None of that has anything to do with PPM.

Safety is primarily a matter of keeping total amount of silver that you consume within reasonable, responsible limits. Typically, the total amount of silver one is consuming is measured by biochemists in "micrograms" of silver, or "mcg." This is how to measure total amounts of silver.

PPM is an entirely different measurement that is essentially just a matter of how much water is coming along for the ride, which is just another way of saying that it's a measurement of the concentration of the silver in the water. Other than determining optimal dosing and comparing cost per mcg, PPM makes no difference, just like it makes no difference if you take your vitamin C tablets with four ounces of water or eight ounces of water!

When you look at it from that perspective, obviously PPM makes no difference in terms of either efficacy or safety, other than the fact that you need to factor in the PPM of the silver in the product in order to determine the total mcg of silver that a given quantity of the product contains.

Another way to look at it is to compare 5-mg tablets of vitamin C to 50-mg tablets of vitamin C. Which is more effective? Which is safer? Obviously, the answer is, "Neither one! It depends how many tablets you take!" And of course the amount of water you drink with them is entirely irrelevant, just as the amount of water that comes along for the ride with a silver supplement (which is what PPM is about) is also entirely irrelevant other than in determining dosing and comparing costs.


Is smaller particle size better? Is it more effective? Is it safer?

This is again an area where manufacturers have often confused the lay public for marketing purposes. Particle size refers to the amount of clumping up of particles that occurs with all colloidal silver products. The term "colloidal" means "not dissolved in solution the medium" and in mostly all cases with colloidal silver that means not dissolved in the water. It's just not soluble in the water (nor in the blood, which is mostly water). So, it tends to clump up or "agglomerate." The more this occurs, the bigger the particles.

The size of the particles in colloidal silver makes zero difference on effectiveness or safety. What matters for effectiveness is the carrier agent to stabilize and release silver ions in the body, and what matters for safety is the total mcg of silver you consume. Neither of those factors is at all related to particle size.

While some manufacturers claim that smaller particles are more effective, this fails to take into account the carrier agent and fails to consider that without dissociation in the body no particle size is going to have any benefit since it must break down in the body in order to release ions. If it will be breaking down, then what difference does it make how big the particles are in the bottle?

One of the most misleading claims made by some manufacturers is that smaller particles are safer. This claim completely disregards everything that biochemists know to be true. If anything, the smaller particles are more capable of binding up in the skin and contributing towards argyria than larger particles. Once should never consider particle size as a determining factor for safety or lack thereof.

The only factors that matter are the carrier agent for efficacy and keeping the total mcg of silver you consume within reasonable limits for safety.

See our comments at the top of this page (Education, third item) regarding the "photos" circulated by some manufacturers.

Furthermore, consider this bottom-line reality: If all that mattered was smaller particles, then all we would need to do is buy silver nitrate powder off the shelf and mix it in water. That would provide the body with free silver ions, the smallest units of silver that exist, and it would do so in a very inexpensive way. But it completely lacks the molecular structure for stabilizing the silver ion for transport across the walls of the mouth and across the gut and then releasing them in the blood.

Absorption into the body is not a problem with silver ions. In fact, they are too readily absorbed, right in the mouth! That's why they need to be stabilized and released. The chemistry that provides the molecular structures as the delivery mechanism is the decisive factor that makes silver ions available to the blood system.


A manufacturer is claiming that their silver product cannot possibly discolor the skin. Is this true?

Let us make this as clear as we can make it: There is simply no such thing as a silver supplement that is not capable of discoloring the skin if sufficiently excessive quantities are consumed, and no molecular structures are known to be more or less prone to contributing towards the total it would take to cause potential problems. It is the silver ion that is bioactive, both in terms of providing any potential benefits and, likewise, in terms of being able to bind up with substances in the body and deposit in the skin. Therefore, if the silver product can provide any benefits, then it can also discolor the skin with excessive intake because it's releasing silver ions in the body. The bottom line is that once should not only ignore such claims but also be very wary of any manufacturer that would make such claims.


A manufacturer is claming it's safe to take a certain amount of their product per day because that amount of silver equals the limit specified by the EPA Reference Dose (RfD). Is that accurate?

Unfortunately, this is another case where manufacturers all too often mislead the public. As stated in the Silver Safety Guideline, the RfD is designed to address total silver intake from all sources. A substantial part of the RfD limit is used up by the silver in your daily water and food intake, which must be deducted before one can refer to the RfD as a guideline for how much silver to take in a supplement.

We advise caution when misleading statements about safety limits are put forth by a manufacturer, especially when they incorrectly site the government's safety guidelines.

Note: To see an illustration of how the EPA uses the RfD as a guideline for total daily intake of silver, from which they deducted what they estimated is in the average food intake in order to determine safe levels of silver in the drinking water, see the second page of these excerpts from the EPA Drinking Water Regulations.


A manufacturer is claming their product cannot harm the beneficial bacteria in the body. Is that accurate?

It is not possible for silver ions to differentiate between beneficial and harmful bacteria. There are no significant studies to support such claims, and we're sure there never will be. Extensive research on ionic silver by major companies in industry and medicine keep pointing toward the broad-spectrum nature of the bioactivity of ionic silver, which completely contradicts such marketing claims.

Since there's no way of really measuring the impact that any silver supplement may have on the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, we recommend taking a beneficial bacteria supplement while using a silver supplement, especially if using it abundantly or often. The "coated" type that is time-released may be a bit preferable because if it's taken at the same time as the silver it's less likely to be destroyed by the silver.


I was thinking about buying the equipment to make colloidal silver myself at home. Is that a good idea?

It's difficult to know what you're getting into when doing this. The preference is to buy a product that's made by a reputable manufacturer, but if cost is really an issue and there are real health reasons why you need to use colloidal silver on a regular basis, making it at home might make sense. However, we advise doing your homework and be certain to send samples out to an analytical lab very often to measure the silver concentration (PPM) in what you're making to you can apply these safety guidelines, and do your best to replicate the same procedures every time so the PPM will stay close to that level as consistently as possible


What about the "blue man" who has been in the news? Could that happen to me?

He is the first to say that he was solely responsible for his condition. He was making a colloidal silver product by himself at home and never knew the concentration (PPM) of silver in what he was making. Moreover, he consumed it by the glassful on a daily basis for years! Think about that! A few years ago, there was a news story about a college student who died from drinking a massive amount of water in a matter of minutes as part of an initiation. Does that mean water is dangerous to drink? Of course not. As with anything, reasonable limits are required and with a sufficient amount of excess there will be complications. Silver is the easiest thing in the world to use regularly while remaining entirely safe.

The information on this website is intended to ensure that that's the easiest thing for anyone to do.

 

 
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* The EPA did not create and has not endorsed the Silver Safety Guideline or the Silver Safety Calculation. It has not represented that limiting
silver intake from silver supplements to 25% of the RfD will limit total silver intake to safe levels or adheres to the RfD guideline.