New Study: Silver Nanoparticles Do NOT Harm Environment


A new study published in a respected environmental journal has demonstrated what I've been saying for years. Silver nanoparticles that make their way into the environment basically cause no harm whatsoever.

This comes as no surprise, of course, to anyone with common-sense. After all, silver originates from the environment in the first place.

So when small amounts of antimicrobial silver leach from a consumer product and end up in the environment, it's only being returned to its original source. And it simply integrates harmlessly back into the very environment from which it came.

Mother nature has a way of dealing with it.

That's because silver has a high affinity for other natural substances such as biological silica, salts, sulfur and other common soil and water minerals. And as it bonds with these minerals in the soil or water, its powerful antimicrobial qualities are largely neutralized. It become inert, just as it was before it was originally taken from the environment.

A brand new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology bears this out. Here's the inside story the radical, anti-silver environmentalists hope you'll never see…

Hi, Steve Barwick here, for

For years now the anti-silver environmentalists have been screaming from the rooftops that antimicrobial silver nanoparticles need to be removed from consumer products and regulated into oblivion because they represent a dire "threat to the environment."

Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth (FOE) have even called for the banning of all colloidal silver products, claiming they should be regulated as drugs.

Since 2008, massive online propaganda campaigns have been launched by the radical anti-silver environmentalists against the use of silver nanoparticles in consumer products (see "In Defense of Silver Nanoparticles" at this link).

And the anti-silver environmentalists have even gone so far as to claim that the use of antimicrobial silver in consumer products is "killing the planet" and contributing to global warming (see "Enviros Claim Silver Usage is Killing the Planet" at this link).

As a result, the EPA cracked down on the use of silver nanoparticles in consumer goods, to the point that most of them have been removed from the market (see "How Environmentalists Are Destroying the Market for Antimicrobial Silver" at this link).

This has prevented consumers from enjoying the antimicrobial benefits of nanosilver in hundreds of consumer products such as computer keyboards, cell phones, food containers, kitchen cutting boards and other items upon which high levels of pathogens are often found (see "Colloidal Silver: the Safe, Natural, Non-Toxic Home Disinfectant" at this link).

Sensationalistic Nonsense

Of course, when you thoughtfully examine the numerous articles and studies published by the anti-silver environmentalists, you'll find they're usually full of sensationalistic speculation and very short on facts or reliable independent data.

Their consistent use of empty, yet ominous-sounding weasel words like "unknown risk," "potential harm," or "grave concerns" is pervasive.

And their use of junk science (i.e., such as when they soaked tiny minnows in buckets full of silver nanoparticles at concentrations that would never be found in nature in order to produce a toxic reaction, or when they slathered silver nanoparticles all over tiny albino mice in order to produce a toxic reaction) has been so egregious, other scientists have even called them out for it and demanded they start practicing good science.

But these kinds of sensationalistic tactics are used by the anti-silver environmentalists because they simply don't have the data to back up their shrill claims against silver. It's all rank speculation.

Worse yet, it appears many of these anti-silver environmentalist groups are funded, often to the tune of millions of dollars, by charitable foundations set up by Big Pharma (see "Big Drug Companies Fund Groups Behind Plot to Regulate Nanosilver" at this link).

Much Ado About Nothing

Of course, for all of the shrill and hyperbolic sky-is-falling warnings being promulgated by the anti-silver environmentalists since they first launched their anti-silver propaganda campaigns in 2008, it's all turned out to be, in Shakespeare's words, "much ado about nothing."

For example, the environmentalists claimed nanosilver from consumer products would leach into rivers and streams and hurt fish and other wildlife.

But independent researchers found that to be largely untrue, with harm to fish or other aquatic life being minimal at best. Instead, quite the opposite, silver appears to be quite helpful to fish and other aquatic wildlife.

Indeed, consumers began using colloidal silver to save their tropical fish from skin problems.

What's more, products like TetraMedica FungiStop (consisting of colloidal silver) have become popular with tropical fish hobbyists throughout Europe, who use it to save their expensive tropical fish collections from being devastated by bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

And Vietnamese shrimp farmers began using nanosilver to prevent viral and bacterial infections from destroying their shrimp crops.

Finally, nanosilver was even demonstrated to boost the hatchability rate of trout eggs and the survival rate of the hatchlings in aquaculture environments. It did so by inhibiting the growth rate of bacteria and fungi that often decimate eggs and hatchling populations.

Environmentalists then switched gears and claimed nanosilver, being found in the soil, would harm plants and reduce crop yields.

But in a study published in the March 2010 issue of the journal Mycobiology, researchers found that applying varying levels of silver nanoparticles to the roots of green onion plants completely eradicated fungal infections known to destroy the plants.

What's more, the silver caused no harm whatsoever to beneficial soil microbes needed by the green onion plants for growth, nor was there any negative change in the soil chemistry or composition.

Finally, once the nanosilver-treated green onion plants were harvested, they were demonstrated to have grown larger and to weigh more than the non-treated green onion plants.

But none of that seems to make any difference to the radical, anti-silver environmentalists.

Once more, they simply switched gears and began to claim that once nanosilver enters an aquatic environment, such as rivers, lakes, streams, oceans or even wastewater treatment plants, it retain its toxicity to microbes, and thus poses a dire threat to the micro-ecology of all aquatic bodies.

But in July, 2012, in a study titled "Effect of light on toxicity of nanosilver to Tetrahymena pyriformis," published in the journal of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, researchers found that nanosilver loses much of its toxicity in any aquatic environment, as soon as it's exposed to light.

Indeed, after only 24 hours of exposure to light, nanosilver demonstrated 33.7% reduced toxicity in terms of its ability to inhibit the microorganism tested. This demonstrates that exposure to light alone reduces the toxicity of silver nanoparticles.

What's more, the study authors point out that after 24 hours of exposure to light, the silver nanoparticles began to coagulate (i.e., bond together) into larger particle agglomerates.

This in turn further decreased their toxicity by dramatically reducing the available surface area (i.e., the number of individual silver particles become far fewer as more and more particles bond together into large "clumps").

According to the researchers, as the silver nanoparticles agglomerated, they began to release silver ions at a much slower pace than usual, and released far fewer of the ions as well, which are critical to silver's toxicity to microbes. This reduced release of silver ions decreased toxicity of the nanosilver even further.

The researchers also found that the bulk agglomeration of the silver nanoparticles to minerals and other natural substances in the water caused some of the nanosilver to begin falling to the bottom of the aquatic environment, thus decreasing the number of silver nanoparticles in the water itself.

This is exactly what advocates of the use of nanosilver in consumer products have said all along, i.e., in real-world conditions, upon exposure to normal environmental realities, nanosilver rapidly begins to lose its "nano" characteristics along with much of its toxicity.

Finally, in April 2013, Swiss scientists working for the country's National Research Programme threw environmentalists into fits with their study demonstrating the simple fact that barely any nanosilver from consumer products ends up in wastewater or other waterways, and what little does is "quickly transformed into less problematic substances on its way to the wastewater treatment plant."

What's more, of the small amount of nanosilver that actually makes it to wastewater treatment plants, 95% rapidly becomes bound in sewage sludge.

The bottom line is this: Far from being a threat to the ecology, nanosilver simply goes back to being a harmless part of the very environment from which it was originally taken.

So one-by-one, the shrill claims of the radical anti-silver environmentalists have largely been decimated by independent studies as well as government-sponsored studies.

Brand New Study: Nanosilver Doesn't Harm Environment

Now, a brand new study, titled "The Impact of Silver Nanoparticles on the Composting of Municipal Solid Waste," published in December 2013 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, has put what I hope will be the final nail in the coffin of the radical, anti-silver environmentalists.

You see, in the U.S., municipal solid waste from wastewater treatment plants is often composted, turned into fertilizer, and then sold to farmers for use on their fields.

But the radical anti-silver environmentalists contend that when silver, which has leached into the environment from consumer products, ends up in municipal solid waste, it kills off the bacteria needed to compost the waste and convert it to fertilizer.

But in this latest study, researchers examined the effects of silver nanoparticles on "the composting of municipal solid waste" and found that "…functional performance was not significantly affected…" when silver nanoparticles were added.

In other words, when silver nanoparticles were added to the composting waste products, the physical quality of the compost was not significantly different from the compost made without the addition of silver nanoparticles.

This means the added silver nanoparticles did not destroy the bacteria needed to bio-degrade the waste material into fertilizer for farming. Instead, the nanosilver simply integrated itself into the waste material and became largely inert as it bonded with other substances.

Indeed, the researchers found that the silver nanoparticles were fairly rapidly transformed to less toxic compounds at the soil surface. And toxicity was further reduced as the silver continued to "complex with organic matter."

Of course, this is what I've been saying for years:

Nanosilver simply integrates harmlessly back into the very environment from which it originally came by bonding to natural substances such as biological silica, salts, sulfur and other common soil and water minerals.

Once returned to the environment, the silver is no more "harmful to the environment" than it was the day it was first mined.

As the journal Science explained, regarding the new study, in their December 2013 issue:

"[Researchers] analyzed the impact that realistic low levels of silver nanoparticles had on the microbial communities responsible for biodegrading disposed organic matter during composting.

In compost treated with nanosilver or free silver ions, the species present in the bacterial communities differed from a control reactor without any added silver;

however, the physical properties of the aged compost and the leachate were nearly identical between treatments."

In other words, when realistic levels of nanosilver were added to a batch of solid waste materials about to be composted, the bacterial species present during the composting process appeared to differ slightly from that of the batch of solid waste materials being composted with no nanosilver was added.

But the end result, which is to say, the physical quality of both batches of compost, were virtually identical. So the added nanosilver had no detrimental impact on the microbial biodegradation of the waste materials.

According to the researchers, "The results of this study further suggest that at relatively low concentrations, the organically rich waste management systems' functionality may not be influenced by the presence of AgNPs."

In other words, in plain English, the presence of silver nanoparticles in solid waste material won't stop microbes from composting the materials and turning it into fertilizer.

Over 120 Years, and No Harm Yet

As I pointed out in a previous article, "Nanosilver – Nothing New, and Not Harmful to the Environment in Over 120 Years of Use," while nanosilver has been around for well over a century, and has been widely used in everything from consumer products to swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and even municipal water systems, there's simply no historical basis for claims that it's a "threat to the environment."

As researcher Bernd Nowack pointed out several years ago in the journal Science, more than 90% of silver nanoparticles that make their way into sewage treatment plants, "remain bound in the sewage sludge in the form of silver sulfide, a substance which is extremely insoluble and orders of magnitude less toxic than free silver ions."

Silver Is Ubiquitous in the Environment

The bottom line is that silver is naturally ubiquitous in the environment.

It's in every river, lake or stream. It's in the oceans. It's in every glass of water you drink. It's in the water in every shower or bath you take. It's in your food. And silver is everywhere throughout the earth, as well, including the very soil your food crops are grown in.

It exists mostly as "trace silver" – literally millions of TONS of tiny microscopic and sub-microscopic silver particles which abound in the world's oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, as well in the ground and even in the air your breath.

Earth even makes its own nanosilver, quite prolifically, by the way, whenever deposited mineral silver comes into contact with humic acid from dead, rotting leaves and other organic materials.

And in all of this time, since the very day you were born, all of this silver in the environment has never harmed you. So be sure take the shrill cries of the anti-silver environmentalists with a healthy grain of salt. And don't fall for their sensationalistic nonsense.

The earth is not coming to a premature end due to the presence of silver nanoparticles, which in reality, have been here since the beginning of time.

Heck, for all we know, silver nanoparticles might be one of the few things preserving this old earth. But don't mention that to the radical, anti-silver environmentalists, unless of course, you want to see their collective heads spin. 

Steve Barwick
Steve Barwick


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