Colloidal Silver, THE PRODUCT AND WHAT IT'S MARKETED FOR: With some Web sites making claims that certain products they sell can help prevent SARS - the severe respiratory disease that has killed hundreds of people in China and more than 640 worldwide - it's time for a look at one of these supplements, colloidal silver.
Marketed by some Internet sites as a dietary supplement that can fight conditions like allergies and viral infections, colloidal silver usually consists of silver particles suspended in a liquid or gelatinous base.
Some Web sites that sell dietary supplements have made unsubstantiated claims that colloidal silver can be effective in helping to prevent SARS or anthrax in addition to other illnesses such as AIDS, tuberculosis and herpes. There are no known products that prevent or cure SARS - that's one reason the medical community is having such difficulty containing it.
In one case, a seller of colloidal silver claimed it could cure a grand total of 650 diseases.
WHAT'S KNOWN: Recently, both the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration began cracking down on Internet sites that sell colloidal silver and make claims that it can help ward off various illnesses and infections.
This follows a 1999 rule issued by the FDA which stated that all over-the-counter products containing colloidal silver or silver salts were not recognized as safe and effective.
In some cases, colloidal silver has caused people who use it regularly develop argyria - a condition in which the skin is permanently darkened. For example, Stan Jones, the 2002 Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate from Montana, turned blue-gray after consuming a homemade mixture containing colloidal silver.
Colloidal silver ingredients include silver proteins, silver chloride and silver iodide.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While silver has antibacterial properties when used in a laboratory setting and can be used as a topical disinfectant, its toxic qualities limits its internal use in humans.
Richard Cleland, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission's advertising practices division, said in a telephone interview that as far as he knows, colloidal silver "does nothing. I don't think a single therapeutic use has ever been substantiated."
Colloidal silver has not been approved as a drug by the FDA and, therefore, the federal government does not allow those who sell it to claim that it cures certain ailments.
Cleland said that claims by Internet Web sites that colloidal silver can prevent SARS or anthrax are unapproved drug claims. He noted that with the right equipment, people can concoct homemade solutions of colloidal silver and that some of the products being hawked on the Web may be homemade.
In recent years, Cleland said, colloidal silver has become popular as a supplement despite the fact that many of the claims about its effectiveness have not been proven.
Cleland's counterparts at the FDA were not available for comment.
ALTERNATIVES: "There's no substantiation that this product will cure, treat or mitigate any disease," Cleland said. Patients who have used colloidal silver to treat various infections and diseases and who are seeking an alternative to the supplement should consult their physicians.
By Kathleen Kerr
Copyright (c) 2003, Newsday, Inc.
This article originally appeared at:
Visit Newsday online at http://www.newsday.com