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Too Much Silver Can Harm Health

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Q: Several friends are taking colloidal silver in place of antibiotics, a teaspoon or two, several times a day when ill. Is it effective and safe?

A: The marketing of colloidal silver supplements is reminiscent of highly hyped coral calcium. Silver supplements such as Seasilver, promoted on Web sites and by multilevel marketers, have been raking in millions of dollars a month.

Silver supplements, however, carry a greater potential for harm.

With excessive use, silver accumulates in the body, causing the skin to turn bluish. This condition, called argyria, has been reported in people taking silver supplements. The brain, kidneys and other organs may be damaged, and babies could be born with birth defects.

Silver is present in drinking water and diet, so taking supplemental silver in unknown amounts might shove you into the toxic zone.

This past June FDA and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) cracked down on marketers of Seasilver for falsely claiming the product could treat cancer, diabetes, hypoglycemia, psoriasis, hepatitis, arthritis and other diseases. FTC is working to get refunds for purchasers.


Q: At the beginning of summer you wrote about the danger of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. Could you reprint the part about choosing the proper DEET concentration to keep mosquitoes away?

A: DEET is a chemical used in mosquito repellent products. Here's the part you wanted: A higher concentration of DEET doesn't mean your protection is better, just that it will last longer.

According to a recent study, here's how it breaks down:

-23.8 percent DEET provided an average of 5 hours of protection from mosquito bites.

-20 percent DEET provided almost 4 hours of protection.

-6.65 percent DEET provided almost 2 hours of protection.

-4.75 percent DEET provided about 1.5 hours of protection. (Of interest to natural product advocates, 2 percent soybean oil provided the same protection.)

Knowing this, you can choose a product based on how long you plan to spend outdoors. Realize that you can reapply a shorter-acting product to extend your outdoor time.

DEET appears to be safe when used according to label directions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends products containing no more than 10 percent DEET on children ages 2 to 12, while some experts suggest it's OK to use low concentrations on infants over 2 months old.

Another way to protect yourself is to wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and socks. Don't apply DEET to skin under clothing.


(Richard Harkness is a consultant pharmacist who writes on health care topics. You can write him at 1224 King Henry Drive, Ocean Springs, MS 39564. His e-mail address is Volume of mail prohibits individual replies; selected letters will be answered in his column.)


(c) 2003, The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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