Ingesting too much silver can turn the skin blue and new research suggests the process is similar to developing black-and-white photographs. Scientists have known for years that the condition, called argyria, had something to do with silver. The condition has been documented in people who (ill-advisedly) drink antimicrobial health tonics containing silver nanoparticles and in people who have had extensive medical treatments involving silver.
Tissue samples from patients showed silver particles actually lodged deep in the skin, but it wasn’t clear how they got there. “It’s the first conceptual model giving the whole picture of how one develops this condition,” says Robert Hurt, professor of engineering at Brown University and a members of the research team. “What’s interesting here is that the particles someone ingests aren’t the particles that ultimately cause the disorder.”