Silver’s association with anti-bacterial properties has long been established. The ancient Phoenicians knew enough to keep water, wine and vinegar in silver vessels to ensure freshness. It is only recently, however, that scientists have discovered why silver works.
How does it kill bacteria?
Quite simply, silver interrupts the bacteria cell’s ability to form the chemical bonds essential to its survival. These bonds produce the cell’s physical structure so when bacteria meets silver it literally falls apart. For this reason, silver enforced bandages are especially in demand. Bandages with silver ions prevent bacterial growth and speed healing time, making them especially valuable for treating burn and wound victims.
Wound dressings containing silver have been an important aspect of healthcare for more than a century; soldiers in World War I relied heavily upon such dressings. Today, consumer healthcare companies like Johnson & Johnson and others offer their own lines of bandages and ointments that use silver as an active ingredient.
Silver proven to promote the growth of new cells
Silver has actually been proven to promote the growth of new cells, thereby increasing the rate at which wounds can heal. And, unlike other metals with antimicrobial properties, it is not toxic to humans*.
Hospitals using silver-imbedded equipment as a Biocide
Another important use of silver as a biocide is in hospitals and other health care facilities. A life-threatening Staph germ called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), often referred to as a “superbug,” is resistant to almost all chemical antibiotics, so many hospitals are employing silver-imbedded equipment including surgical tools, catheters, needles, stethoscopes, furniture, door handles and even paper files.
Silver in Water Purification
Another key use for silver is in the millions of water purifiers that are sold each year. Silver prevents bacteria and algae from building up in their filters so that they can do their job to rid drinking water of bacteria, chlorine, trihalomethanes, lead, particulates and odours.
Research has shown that the catalytic action of silver, in concert with oxygen, provides a powerful sanitizer that virtually eliminates the need for the use of corrosive chlorine. Silver ions are also starting to be added to water purification systems in hospitals, community water systems, pools and spas. It is slowly replacing chlorine as the widespread element of choice for filtration. Silver also eradicates Legionnaires’ disease, which is caused by buildup in pipes, connections and water tanks.
People Turning Blue – Condition called Argyia
*I have often heard people ask about silver turning you blue, a condition called Argyia. Further research uncovered this excerpt from the Australian Water Standards (AWS) publication 2011. Interesting to note is that the AWS recommendation in drinking water for silver is 0.1mg/L – you will see below that to turn the laboratory rates blue required 600mg/l for the lifetime. Seems some folk may have been self-administering to get this condition, which makes for a great “I heard it through the grapevine that you can turn blue!”.
"The best-known clinical condition of silver intoxication is argyria, which results in a bluish-grey metallic discolouration of the skin, hair, mucous membranes, mouth and eye. Most cases have been associated with self-administration of silver preparations, or occupational exposure to silver and silver compounds.
Experiments with laboratory rats and mice have reported similar results. Very high concentrations of silver in drinking water (over 600 mg/L) for a lifetime caused discolouration in the thyroid and adrenal glands, the choroids of the brain and eye, and the liver and kidney. Some hypoactive behaviour was also reported."