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Consuming colloidal silver can cause argyria, a blue-gray discoloration of the skin, according to health experts.
In a photo from 2008, Paul Karason peers at the camera over glasses perched on his blue nose. All of his skin is blue, and in 2008, when this photo was taken, he was appearing on NBC’s "Today" show to talk about what happened to him after taking colloidal silver.
Karason, who died in 2013, said that his skin started turning blue after treating it with silver and, for more than a decade, drinking colloidal silver, a concoction of tiny silver particles in liquid that’s sometimes promoted as a dietary supplement. He developed argyria, a discoloration of the skin caused by excess silver ions in the body.
But a recent Instagram post sharing the picture of Karason suggests a scam is afoot.
"It’s impossible for pure colloidal silver to turn you blue," the post says. "Not one person has turned blue. Ever. This clown made a home brew concoction that wasn’t silver."
The Instagram post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
It’s true that Karason bought a device to make his own colloidal silver at home, Wired reported in 2017. What’s not true, according to health experts, is that it’s impossible for colloidal silver to turn you blue.
As we’ve previously reported, colloidal silver can imperil health and cause serious side effects, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The most common: argyria, which is usually permanent.
The condition is caused by silver building up in the body’s tissue and, according to the center, people have developed it from using both homemade and commercial colloidal silver products.
The Mayo Clinic has said that it’s unclear how much colloidal silver people can take before it harms them. It can build up in the body’s tissues over months or years. Although argyria doesn’t typically cause major health problems, the clinic said, "it can be a cosmetic concern because it does not go away when you stop taking silver products."
Karason got the nickname "Papa Smurf" because of his skin’s blue tint, and earlier this year Snopes looked at claims that publicity surrounding his skin turning blue from colloidal silver was disinformation to scare people away from using it. Snopes declared that statement false.
Claims that colloidal silver can’t turn you blue are also wrong. We rate them False.
Instagram post, Oct. 17, 2022
Getty Images photo of Paul Karason, Jan. 7, 2008
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Colloidal silver, visited Oct. 20, 2022
ABC News, Internet Sensation 'Papa Smurf' Dies; Other Blue People Live On, Sept. 25, 2013
NBC News, The true blue story of Paul Karason, Jan. 22, 2008
Mayo Clinic, My dad takes colloidal silver for his health, but is it safe?, Oct. 5, 2022
Wired, Colloidal Silver Turns You Blue—But Can It Save Your Life?, Oct. 5, 2017
Cleveland Clinic, Is Colloidal Silver Safe and Effective?, March 3, 2022
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