Message Number: YG4492 | New FHL Archives Search
From: RRC
Date: 2001-06-11 14:29:00 UTC
Subject: Bob C: Heavy Metal (Collodial Silver, NOT Metallica)

Q: (Private Post) "You have been talking alot about genetic foods, but
how about sometthing what ferret owners can relate to?? What about
[Colloidal Silver] that is so popular?"

A: OUCH! Ok, so genetic engineering is a bit off the track as a ferret
subject, especially when we are no longer talking about food. But
talking about colloidal silver will NOT make me more popular. Well, you
only live once. For the sake of fairness, I will not discuss any
particular preparation for the same reasons I never mention personal or
vet names when discussing issues. First, it isn't important to the
issue, and second, see the first reason.

The use of collodial silver (C.S.) preparations seems to be supported by
loyal and steadfast ferret lovers who have a belief in the product
sincere enough to be called a faith. It is very difficult for them to
understand that even when a test superficially appears a good one, and
there are several people claiming benefits, there may be theoretical or
practical scientific reasons why that test cannot be trusted. There are
a great number of people, including some vets, who use some variation of
C.S. and claim it has great success. Anecdote after anecdote are paraded
as if they were real evidence. For those who do not know, C.S. is
nothing more than metallic silver ground fine enough so that when it is
mixed with a collodial liquid (water is a polar liquid and is frequently
used), the silver dust remains in suspension and does not gradually sink
to the bottom. The particles vary in size depending on the manufacturing
process, but the more expensive preparations claim the silver is not
more than 0.001 microns in diameter. That is pretty small; but while
they are microscopic sized particles of silver metal, that is not saying
they are individual silver molecules by any means. Silver is a heavy
metal, and has long been suspected of having antibacterial qualities,
which is why it was used for eating utensils and surgical instruments
prior to stainless steel and modern sterilizers.

BUT, (you knew I would make a but for myself, didn't you?), even if
SILVER worked, does the collodial silver suspension work? That's the key
question. The same manufacturer which claims the 0.001 micron sized
silver particles in their product, also say their C.S. is 10 parts per
million in demineralized water. It means you have have to drink 100,000
ounces of solution to get a single (AS IN ONE!) ounce of silver! I hope
you have a good supply of Depends, because all that water has to go some place....

Just stop for a moment and really think about this. If silver, held in
suspension at 10 PPM (parts per million) is an effective antibacterial,
that means such a suspension has a negative biological impact at that
dilution. In other words, 10 PPM would have enough silver to constitute
a threat to biological organisms. I reject any claims that bacteria are
"more susceptible" to silver poisoning than ferret or human cells;
first, you have to prove it (which has never been done). Second, silver
cannot target specific types of organisms like antibiotics do because it
is an element, not a molecule which keys for a specific protein
sequence. Third, most bacteria are hardier (they have greater tolerance)
or equal to typical ferret or human body cells. Besides, is silver that
deadly? There are two ways of looking at the question; the levels needed
to cause harm, and the levels the EPA says are safe.

First, the EPA levels. The EPA says that levels of silver equaling 1.142
PPM in water are ok for up to 10 days. This is about 1/10th the level
found in most C.S. products. However, EPA levels are low to account for
long term exposure AND to eliminate risk in growing children. Looking at
their levels and knowing they are trying to err on side of angels, they
are basically saying 1 PPM has ALMOST NO REAL EFFECT WHATSOEVER. So, if
your C.S. preparation uses a couple of drops of C.S. (at 10 PPM) mixed
in a pint or so of other stuff (not to mention the final dilution in the
bowel), then the dilution is well below that which has biological
significance. You might as well spit in the wind and call it a shower.

Perhaps a better way to see the real effects of silver on organisms is
to look at the level required to cause poisoning. It might surprise you
to know that those levels are generally unknown (especially for people),
which means EVEN if silver has a mild antibacterial effect, it is still
pretty benign. One study suggests silver has to be 2589 PPM in order to
be life threatening to rats (probably comparable to ferrets). Even if
you assume bacteria are somehow 1/100th as hardy as regular body cells
(which is absurd), the PPM required to end their microscopic lives would
be 25.89 PPM, about 2.5 times the undiluted solution straight from the
bottle. But you can't assume the PPM of the ingested product to be that
on the label because it is first diluted in food, THEN in stomach
contents. For the dilution in the interior of the bowel to reach 10 PPM,
you would pretty much have to fill the entire gut with the solution. If
you only fill half the intestinal bolus and the other half is food and
water, it is now 5 PPM. In reality, most C.S. solutions range in the PPB
(Parts per Billion) or even PPT (Parts Per Trillion) dilutions within
the bowel, which makes you wonder how those levels can take on so many
billions of bacteria when they have NO biological significance.

But go back to the EPA recommendations. Suppose the level of 1.142 PPM
represents the upper safe level (NOT toxic, but marginally safe). What
that means is at that level or higher, silver MAY cause cancers, shut
down testicles, exacerbate auto-immunity disorders, whatever. Suppose
they do. Assuming body cells and bacterial cells are roughly the same in
hardiness, that means the dose you have to give a ferret to kill
bacteria (2589 PPM), is FAR GREATER than the dose than can cause cancer
(1.142 PPM). For those who want to argue that bacteria are more
sensitive to silver than regular body cells, they still have to prove
it, but consider the western USA, where water generally has high levels
of silver (usually in PPB, but sometimes in PPM). The water STILL has to
be treated for bacteria. As does water contaminated with lead, zinc,
selenium, sulfur, arsenic, nitrates, and even nasty radioactive substances.

However, in truth, we have NO IDEA if these levels are accurate or not,
simply because they have never been tested. They could be a hundred
times greater, or a millionth less; we simply do not know. But we DO
know the final solutions of the silver in C.S. preparations do not
constitute a threat to biological organisms by EPA standards, otherwise
it would be labeled a dangerous product, or even removed from the
shelves. Think about the difficulty in buying leaded gas or paint. The
fact it can be sold without any sort of regulation implies it is safe.
This is America, land of lawsuits and multi-term congressmen. It appears
C.S. is hardly a magic bullet for bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.

There is another thing to consider regarding collodial silver
preparations. C.S. manufacturers claim the antibacterial effect is
caused by the silver "surrounding" the bacteria, depriving them of oxygen:

"Colloidal Silver: Actually “strangles” over 650 disease-creating
bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites by cutting off their oxygen supply!"

So what the manufacturer is saying is, an extremely dilute solution of
fine particles of silver metal can prevent molecular oxygen from
entering billions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. Wouldn't
it do the same thing to ferret or human intestinal cells? And how does
that work if it doesn't? Ok, suppose that is true. Anything about
ingesting C.S. and it working on intestinal flora strike you as strange?
How about the tiny detail that most of the common intestinal bacteria
are symbiotic; that is, they provide vitamins like B-12 or K in exchange
for food and a tidy place to sleep? How can silver determine which
bacteria are good and which are bad? Even if it works, it could do more
bad to the ferrets than good by destroying their intestinal flora. Since
it works by depriving the bad bacteria of oxygen, does it have any
effect on anaerobic bacteria? It is in the gut and that isn't oxygen
passing out your butt. And how does it work against viruses? Fill their
tiny lungs with silver?

Claims are easy to make, and people making them manufacture their own
evidence. Suppose a substance does nothing; it is plain water in a
colored capsule. Did you know that in some tests, these placebos can
cause symptoms in 30% or more of recipients, including allergic
reactions? And you don't have to be a true believer to "see" results;
diseases are known to spontaneously go into remission for no known
reason. If you are taking a placebo and a remission randomly occurs, it
is very easy to assume the remission was caused by the nondrug. Giving a
ferret a medicine actually INCREASES the placebo effect because humans
can interpret results from soup laced with C.S. as being a reversal of
disease rather than the extra calories available either because the
ferret is eating more because of personal attention, or because the food
has more calories per ounce than what it had been eating. "Look, the
ferret is getting better," is, sad to say, not an accurate
representation of the effectiveness of any particular substance. Even
reports of a dozen or more positive outcomes are worthless unless you
first know the exact disease, degree of infection, other environmental
factors, and most important, how many others have tried without positive
results. Just saying "no one was told me it didn't work" is not good
enough. Suppose you have 4 positive outcomes. If you only had 4 trials,
then call the police to drive you to the bank because you have a ticket
to Bill Gate's neighborhood. If you had ten trials, well 40% isn't bad;
close to many placebo effects, but still pretty good. But what if you
had 100 trials, 4 reported good outcomes, 2 reported bad, and no one
else said anything? What is your percentage now? Get it? You simply DO
NOT KNOW! So, how many people actually use C.S. preparations? You don't
know? THAT is why anecdotal evidence is worthless and testing is so
very, very important!

Because of all these reasons, I decline to use collodial silver
products. You are welcome to make up your own minds on the matter. Here
are some interesting webpages that might be of interest that
substantiate some of the claims I've made:

My apologies to those who sincerely believe in the effectiveness of
collodial silver products. This post is not intended to make anyone look
bad; it is possible there are positive benefits to using C.S. products
and I am entirely wrong. All I want is for the drug—if it is to be used
as a drug—to be tested, safe doses be determined, and toxic levels be
established. That's a fair request for anything. My ferrets deserve no less.

Bob C