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Silver (Ag)

Silver (Ag) is a natural element. It is found in the environment with other elements such as sulfides, chlorides, and silver nitrate. Silver is often found as a by-product during the processing of minerals to recover copper, lead, zinc, and gold. Silver is used to manufacture jewelry, other ornaments, electronic equipment, and tooth seals. It is also used in photos, in adhesive alloys, to disinfect drinking and pool water, and as an antibacterial agent. Silver has also been used in medicines and chewing gum as a smoking cessation aid. Very high concentrations in the body can cause "argyria," a blue-gray coloring of the skin and other organs.

How does Silver come into the environment?
  • Silver can be released into the air and water through natural processes such as rock disintegration.
  • Human activities such as ore processing, cement production, and burning fossil fuels can release silver into the air.
  • It may be released into the water by film camera processing.
  • Rain can wash silver off the ground and transport it to groundwater.
  • Silver does not appear to be significantly concentrated in aquatic animals.
How is one exposed to Silver?
  • By breathing low levels from the air.
  • Consumption of food and water.
  • Workers employed in jewelry, welding, developing photographs, and elsewhere.
  • Using anti-smoking lozenges or other silver-containing medications.
How can Silver affect health?

Exposure to high levels of silver for a long time can lead to a condition called argyria, a blue-gray coloring of the skin and other body tissues. Exposure to lower levels of silver can also cause deposition on the skin and other body parts. However, it is not known whether this situation is harmful. Argyria is a permanent (irreversible) condition, but it seems to create more aesthetic problems without any other profound health impact.

Exposure to high levels of silver in the air results in respiratory problems, lung and throat irritation, and stomach aches. Silver can cause mild allergic reactions in some people upon contact with the skin, such as rash, edema, and inflammation.

Animal studies have shown that ingestion of silver results in deposition on the skin.

Silver, mercury, tin, and gold have been used in amalgamation dentistry.

Silver is incorporated into wound dressings and as an antimicrobial coating on medical devices. Wound dressings contain silver sulfadiazine or silver nanoparticles to treat external infections. Silver is also used in some urinary catheters (it reduces urinary tract infections associated with catheters) and in some endotracheal tubes (it reduces respiratory-related pneumonia). Silver ions are bioactive, and in sufficient concentration, they destroy bacteria quickly in vitro.

How can one determine if one has been exposed to silver?

Silver can be measured in blood, urine, feces, and body tissues. As silver accumulates in the body, the best way to check for previous exposure is through hair and nail samples.

Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!



Important Note

Laboratory test results are crucial for diagnosing and monitoring all pathological conditions. 70% and 80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. Correctly interpreting laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased."

Laboratory test results should not be interpreted solely based on the numerical result of a single analysis. They should be interpreted concerning each case, family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your physician should explain the importance of your test results.

At Diagnostiki Athinon, we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and contact your doctor to ensure you receive the best possible medical care.

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