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Use caution with colloidal silver

Posted Jan. 15, 2010 / Posted by: RConnors

Statement regarding Friends of the Earth's position on colloidal silver products

Friends of the Earth’s core reason for petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was due to concern about nanoscale silver and its use in great quantities in many products, which have the potential to generate serious antimicrobial resistance (as the United Nations and much of the scientific community have identified is happening with antibiotics).

We encourage those concerned with our position on nano-silver to take a close look at our detailed report on the issue.  Pages 13-14 of the report explain the difference between these types of silver: ionic, nano, and colloidal. Colloidal silver is usually a mixture of different sized particles suspended in fluid and may contain nanoscale silver, silver ions or both.

Colloidal silver is not approved as a drug by any federal agency.  Therefore, the claims health practitioners and companies make about its benefits are not backed by regulators. In the United States, producers of colloidal silver are not allowed to make medical claims about it. We recommend in our report that colloidal silver products be taken off the market until thoroughly investigated and regulated by EPA.

When some of these products were tested, researchers were surprised to find that certain colloidal silver products did not even contain silver; they instead contained other potentially risky chemicals. There is a real need for clarity on what products of this sort on the market contain and what should be considered safe use of these products. That clarity needs to be given by our regulators.

Colloidal silver may very well have a special purpose in health, but with all of the confusion in marketing and elsewhere, it is impossible to currently determine the safety of these products. Furthermore, regulators at EPA have warned that silver can cause a permanent blue-gray discoloration of the skin, called argyria in humans. Its use in food-producing animals may also result in silver residues in milk and meat, which could be dangerous to human health.

Friends of the Earth supports alternative medical practices. In fact, Friends of the Earth employees often visit naturopaths and acupuncturists.  Some of our employees even have family members who are alternative medical practitioners. We understand that individuals may prefer to use colloidal silver products instead of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals produced by corporations with questionable interests. We encourage those individuals to continue using the products they feel are safest.

We would also like to set the record straight on a few claims that have come our way about Friends of the Earth receiving money from pharmaceutical companies to support our campaign. We have not taken any money from pharmaceutical companies.  We have in the past received money from the John Merck Fund and the Merck Family Fund, foundations that were established with money earned by the family members who founded the pharmaceutical company.  We have investigated the foundation and it has no ties to the company.  In fact, funding from these foundations was focused on stopping the use of biopharmaceutical crops and blocking a road in Vermont.  Friends of the Earth has a very strict policy on taking money from corporations and corporate-run foundations.  A serious review of our annual reports demonstrates our commitment to remaining independent of influence by corporations.   

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