General, Research, Technology

What are silver nanoparticles and are they safe for health?

Silver is considered one of the most sought aftermetals on our planet. Besides the fact that it is often used in the jewelry industry, this metal is also used in the manufacture of clothing and hygiene products. And all because its tiny particles are capable of destroying bacteria. You have probably already seen on sale “antibacterial” socks with silver nanoparticles and antiseptics with the appropriate composition - they can really fight microbes, but are they safe for health? Scientists from around the world are trying to find the exact answer to this question and, in most cases, their predictions are disappointing.

Silver can be called one of the most natural antibiotics.

To begin with, it is worth noting in products withantibacterial properties, two varieties of silver are used. In commercials you can hear that the product contains “silver ions” or “silver nanoparticles” - be aware that this is not the same thing. There is a big difference between the two varieties and they affect bacteria differently. The differences are so large that they even affect the effectiveness of the funds.

See also: The most valuable metals on Earth


  • 1 Ions of silver
  • 2 Silver Nanoparticles
  • 3 What is argyrosis?
  • 4 Harm of silver

Silver ions

First, it’s worth sorting out what are ions. So they call one atom of a substance that is deprivedelectron. Being in search of an electron, it is constantly in an active state. When applying an antibacterial agent with silver ions to the skin, they immediately find themselves in a medium rich in various substances. Penetrating into bacteria, silver ions block their nutrition channels and lead to death. After that, they cease to be effective.

Silver ions are used in some water purification filters.

Due to the fact that they quickly lose their effectiveness,silver ions are also added to antibacterial agents with antibiotics. But bacteria quickly develop resistance to them, therefore, funds with silver ions do not bring much benefit. Perhaps they are even dangerous in some way.

Silver nanoparticles

Unlike silver ions, nanoparticles areseveral thousand atoms that are combined into tiny crystals. With the electrons, they are all right and when they get on the skin of a person, they do not tend to connect with something as quickly as possible. Therefore, their effectiveness persists for a longer time. Silver nanoparticles do not kill bacteria by poisoning them, but by destroying their cell wall.

Image of a silver surface of usual sizes (top left) and silver nanoparticles (bottom left). The enlarged surface of silver nanoparticles is shown on the right.

In products with silver nanoparticles rarelyexcipients are used. Therefore, bacteria have no chance of developing antibiotic resistance. Thus, it is better to buy products with silver nanoparticles, rather than ions. Or maybe it’s better not to touch such substances at all? After all, silver is a heavy metal that does a lot of harm to the environment. For a person, his tiny particles can also be dangerous.

This is interesting: How do scientists prepare for a world without antibiotics?

What is argyrosis?

Silver ions and nanoparticles can be hazardous tohuman health is a fact. With prolonged use of appropriate antibacterial products, silver can be deposited in large quantities in human skin and cause argyrosis. The most common and obvious symptoms of this disease are darkening of the skin and even its staining in a bluish-gray tint. In severe cases, a person may even have visual impairment. It is believed that an effective method of treating argyrosis does not exist - unless the skin can be lightened with the help of cosmetic products. Of course, when diagnosing this disease, it is necessary to stop using funds with silver ions and nanoparticles.

The most famous person with argyrosis is Paul Karason. For a long time he treated dermatitis with silver and later died

In fact, this disease is knownhumanity is a very long time. Previously, they often suffered from silver mines and jewelers who often come in contact with this material. In the 20th century, silver particles began to be added to medicines. For example, there is a so-called lapis pencil, which has antimicrobial agents and is used to heal wounds on the skin. It does not do much harm to human health, but in large quantities the skin, in theory, can change its color. Again - everything should be in moderation!

This is what zebrafish look like

As it turned out, silver ions can have a round andflat shape. The eggs of tiny fish were placed in different nutrient solutions: in one vessel there were round silver ions, and in the other they were flat. During the experiment, scientists monitored the state of fish embryos every day and noted all the changes.

Silver greatly influenced the development of tiny fish

As it turned out, silver particles strongly influencedon the development of eggs, and far from the best way. It is noteworthy that flat nanoparticles turned out to be more harmful than round ones. What kind of harm was inflicted to tiny organisms, scientists did not report. But now there is a possibility that silver nanoparticles adversely affect human health. Perhaps the consequences of this harm are not immediately visible, but they can occur over time.

In the world there are even plasters with silver particles - it is believed that they accelerate wound healing

Be that as it may, with particles includedSilver products should be handled with extreme caution. To avoid problems, you need to at least use them as little as possible. But the long-term harm of silver to the health of the human body remains open - scientists continue to conduct research.

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On the antibacterial properties of silver oncewrote my colleague Daria Yeletskaya. She said that in the world there is bedding, the threads of which are intertwined with silver. Read more about antibacterial underwear in this article.

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