Silver is a transitional metal that is very soft, malleable, and white that has excellent properties for electric transmission and heat or thermal capacity. Silver has a high luster and is considered a precious metal. Silver has been used in the water treatment process and other industries as a means of controlling and inhabiting bacterial growth. Naturally occurring silver is typically associated with the presence of gold, copper, sulfide mineral deposits, quartz deposits, and arsendies, i.e., compounds that contain arsenic deposits, but may also be associated with mercury and antimony. With respect to geology, this transitional metal is typically associated with igneous and metamorphic rock. The main sources of silver are mined as an ore of copper, copper-nickel, lead, and lead-zinc. The majority of the world’s silver mines are located in Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, China, Australia, Chile, Poland, and Serbia. (Source).
Silver minerals can be sulfides (S=), halides (Cl–), sulfates (SO4=), silicates (SiO4==), bromates, carbonates (CO3=), nitrates (NO3-), oxides, hydroxides (OH-) and others. Metallic silver has been used for surgical prosthesis and splints, fungicides, and coinage. Soluble silver compounds, such as silver salts, have been used in treating mental illness, epilepsy, nicotine addiction, gastroenteritis, and infectious diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhea. (Source) Currently, colloidal silver is used to fight colds and as a dietary supplement. Silver is typically associated with the mining, metal and chemical industries, photographic processes (to develop film, now largely obsolete), soldering, effluents from coal fired power plants, and battery production. Some point-of-use and whole-house water systems use a silver-impregnated carbon filter with silver to acting as a biocide, i.e., bactericide.
When silver is ingested or absorbed into the human body the silver is not flushed from the body, but held in the tissue. The primary target areas are the mucous membranes, and the eyes. Long-term exposure can cause the skin to discolor. It is critical to note that silver may be present in hair treatments such as permanents, dyes, and bleaches.
When the skin becomes discolored, this is known as argyria or argyrosis, which causes the skin to turn a purple to purple gray color. Argyria is also known as "Blue Man Syndrome". At this time, there are no specific health impacts associated with the ingestion of low levels of silver via drinking water.
The EPA has recommended a secondary drinking water standard of 0.1 mg/L and some state agencies and the World Health Organization use this as a maximum drinking water standard. The 2018 EPA Health Advisory on drinking water has a DWEL, i.e., Drinking Water Equivalent Level, for silver of 0.2 mg/L.
(Drinking Water Equivalent Level. A DWEL is a drinking water lifetime exposure level, assuming 100% exposure from that medium, at which adverse, non-carcinogenic health effects would not be expected to occur. DrinkingWater Standards and HealthAdvisories Tables)
Like many contaminants in drinking water, this element can create a cosmetic effect at a rather low concentration and without any particular warning signs of an exposure. Your best course of action is to get your water tested and compile as much information as possible about your water supply source, well construction, surrounding land-use, hazards and history of your neighborhood, and local geology. Because silver can be associated with other metals, such as Arsenic, nickel, Lead, Mercury and Antimony, a comprehensive water quality evaluation is recommended.
Level 1 Testing is done with simple observations that an individual can make with their own senses such as sight, smell, and taste. These observations can be readily apparent or can be observed as they change over time. In addition, accessible related information about the home can also be used to narrow down the cause of your water issues.
The most common symptoms of silver poisoning are fever, gastroenteritis, and argyria (Blue Man syndrome). There really is no in-home screening test for silver in drinking water, but blood testing and hair analysis may provide some valuable insights into exposure to silver before your skin turns blue.
Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Testing Kit. After you’ve done Level 1 Testing, Level 2 Testing can confirm if your observations are correct. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment (see below) or continue to Level 3 Testing.
Hair analysis for metals may provide insight into exposure for this transitional metal.
<div class="product-note in-L6-mtbe-methyl-tert-butyl-ether">Note: If the concentration is < 0.07 mg/L (POU Device System Component)</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>
Level 3 Testing is done through an accredited Water Testing Laboratory. With Level 3 Testing, you can order a testing kit that is used to prepare your sample and submit it to the lab. By utilizing a lab, you have the assurance that a certified water expert had analyzed your water sample. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment options (see below) or continue to Level 4 Testing - Certified Testing.
A Level 4 Certified Test Test uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home to prepare the water sample and then works with an accredited laboratory in order to certify your test results. This type of testing not only gives you the highest level of assurance in the accuracy of your test results, but can also be used as a document in legal cases. For Baseline Testing, we recommend that you use Certified Testing.
It is very uncommon to have an elevated level of silver. Before conducting certified testing we recommend a solid informational water quality test and that you order a Neighborhood Environmental Report.