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Get Informed | Silver

What is Silver?

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.

How Does Silver Become a problem?

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.

What are the Health Risks for Silver?

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.

What are the Standards for Silver?

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)

Get Tested | Silver

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 | Observational Self-Testing

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.

Notes on Level 1 Testing for Silver

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 1 | Self-Test Web App
To do a quick and easy self diagnosis of your water, click the button below.
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Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself Testing

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.

Notes on Level 2 Testing for Silver

Hair analysis for metals may provide insight into exposure for this transitional metal.

Level 3 | Informational Testing

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.

Notes on Level 3 Testing for Silver

Informational water testing that includes silver is readily available. It is not common to find elevated levels of silver in city or well water.  At a minimum, we recommend the National Testing Labs WaterCheck Basic (Private Sources) and the National Testing Labs City Water Basic (City Water).  For city water users, it may also be advisable to review the annual Consumer Confidence Report generated by your supplier. If you are considering a Reverse Osmosis system, we recommend the complete reverse osmosis screening.

Level 4 | 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.

Notes on Level 4 Testing for Silver

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

Get Treatment | Silver

Pretreatment may be needed in some cases to ensure acceptable treatment by the primary water treatment system. Some of the treatment technologies may not be amenable to point-of-entry or even whole-house treatments options. In these cases, point-of-use units may be the best option. Periodic testing should be maintained after the treatment system is in place to ensure objectives are being met and the system is operating properly. Most systems will require maintenance on at least an annual basis. As a safeguard against the presence of other trace metals that have an acute health effect, it is necessary to conduct detailed water testing before and after any treatment systems. The common treatment systems for elevated levels of silver include ion exchange using a strong cation resin, Distillation, and Deionization.

Short Term Treatment

If the level of silver is elevated it may be wise to find a new source of drinking water or temporarily use a point-of-use treatment device such as a reverse osmosis unit. Please do not boil the water.

Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

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Long Term Treatment

In the long-term, the drinking water could be treated using an ion exchange system with a strong cation resin or a new drinking water source should be developed.

Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

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