Rosemary's Story


rosemary For forty years I tried to blend into the crowd, but when I discovered that the quacks were back, I knew that I couldn't do that anymore. I had to stand up and shout, "Look at me! I'm gray." I had to warn the public. A local newspaper broke my story with the headline, "The silver woman from Long Island. The face that no one forgets."

I wasn't always gray. I was born white in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942. When I was eleven years old, my mother mentioned to an MD -- an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist on Long Island -- that I always had a cold. He told her that it had to be allergies and prescribed nose drops that contained silver with instructions to take them "intermittently as needed."

with mom
Rosemary, Mom, the family dog

Right after starting high school at the age of 14, my friends and I volunteered to work in the local hospital as "candy stripers." The hospital was run by a Catholic order of nursing sisters who required that all new volunteers attend a class at their convent once a week on Saturday mornings. The nun who gave the course was also a nurse and a pharmacist. One morning when I walked in she was very startled by my appearance.

"Why are you that color?" she asked. What color? No one had noticed that my color was weird until then. She repeated, "Why are you that color? Ask the doctor." Suddenly everyone noticed. I was slate-gray. We had a family friend, a general practitioner, who made an appointment for me to see a dermatologist. Meanwhile, Saturday rolled around again and I went back to class. This time Sister greeted me with, "You're taking nose drops, aren't you?" I told her I was. "Stop," she said. "They have silver in them. That's why you're gray."

She had seen another nursing sister at the hospital with the same skin discoloration which was also caused by nose drops, probably from the same doctor who was on their staff. The dermatologist took one look at me and diagnosed argyria - a permanent, irreversible skin discoloration caused by the ingestion of silver.

A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis showing all the little specks of silver in my skin. Unfortunately, that is the only information that I have ever been able to get about the drug that disfigured me. No one ever sued doctors back then.

When as a young adult I had difficulty getting jobs because people didn't like my appearance, the lawyers I consulted told me that New York is one of the few states with a statute of limitations on malpractice suits. I never really wanted to sue the doctor. He was a good person who made a tragic mistake. He read the ads from drug companies instead of the medical literature. (1)(2)(3)

Old Garbage
All kinds of silver medicinals, as well as many other dubious and noxious drugs, were used by desperate physicians before the advent of antibiotics. Any student of history can tell you how ineffective they were.

Colloidal silver (CSP) is not a new alternative remedy. It is an old, discarded traditional one that homeopaths and other people calling themselves "alternative health-care practitioners" have pulled out of the garbage pail of useless and dangerous drugs and therapies, things mainstream medicine threw away decades ago.

In 1935 Gaul & Staud wrote about colloidal silver in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), "The alarming increase of argyrosis leaves little doubt as to our purpose in this report. There has been an accumulation of indubitable clinical evidence which makes it imperative to present before those who prescribe, dispense or use these drugs the danger entailed therein...The obvious responsibility for this injudicious medication rests with the circularized advertisements by the various manufacturers to the physicians;" (4)

In 1940 Bryant added, "Conscientious observers in the field of otolaryngology can no longer doubt the occurrence of generalized argyria caused by intranasal silver medications," and "A persistent indifferent attitude to this on the part of otolaryngologist might be condoned if it were possible through the use of such medication to achieve beneficial results for the patient which could not be achieved other wise, but quite the contrary is the case."

He goes on to state that these silver preparations should be supplanted by a weak ephedrine or neosynephrin in an isotonic solution. (5) He continues, "The use of silver-containing nasal medication over even a few weeks is dangerous and accomplishes nothing that cannot be accomplished safely and more efficiently by other means." (6)

The New Old Miracle
In 1995 I discovered that CSP, one of the drugs that causes argyria, was again being aggressively promoted. It was being sold over the Internet where you could buy equipment to make your own, in "health food stores" and by MLMs (multilevel marketers). Promoters were claiming that silver is an "essential mineral" and that even a trace amount in the body prevents serious illness. They also claimed that it was a pre-1938 OTC (over-the-counter drug) that cures 650 specific conditions and diseases such as cancer, AIDS, acne, and lupus. They passed off their promotional material on the Internet and in books and magazines as if it were the gospel truth.

I thought the promoters were ignorant people who had made a terrible mistake, but when I contacted several of them and discovered that they were not interested in hearing my story, they would not change their ads and they refused to include my negative anecdotes along with their positive ones, I knew that they weren't ignorant.

They were quacks who were deliberately lying to sell their product.

The response I got from the owner of a store that sells the stuff was pretty typical. I told him that my skin is gray from the ingestion of silver adding that silver in my body has never benefited me. I had breast cancer at the age of 42. In the year that I was born, 1942, a Dr. Levine wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine stating that all doctors had seen cases of argyria, but it was rarely reported in the medical literature. (7) In searching that literature for thirty years I have never found any evidence that silver in a person's body benefits anyone other than the quack who sold it.

If, in fact, it did do all the wonderful things that the promoters claim, Queen Victoria and the Rockefellers would still be alive and they would be gray like me.

I gave the merchant a fist full of medical literature to substantiate my claims and asked for proof that the product he sold with the colloidal silver label on it was in fact safe and effective for something, anything. I wanted to know how he knew that it actually did all the great things claimed and how he knew that it wouldn't cause argyria. He said he'd have to contact his supplier and get back to me.

The "Evidence"
When he phoned and said that he had the material I had requested, he added that he didn't think it would interest me.

How wrong he was.

He wasn't there when I went to pick it up. His wife, visibly uncomfortable with me in the store, seemed to be hoping that I'd glance at the "evidence" and leave. Instead, I asked if I could take it next door to copy. Reluctantly, she agreed.

What a gold mine that turned out to be. The same names, Dr. Henry Crookes, Sir Malcolm Morris, A. Legge Roe, and R.J. Hartman -- to name a few -- kept popping up in all the promotional material. While most promoters pretended that these people were contemporary researchers, some of the material that the store owner gave me contained citations with dates. These "authors" were ancient.

Old Quacks
I went to the nearest medical history library and pulled the citations. Henry Crookes was a pioneer CSP manufacturer in England at the turn of the century. (8) He sold many different alleged colloidal preparations under the Collosol trade name. (9) Collosol Argentum was the brand name of his colloidal silver. (10) Malcolm Morris was rumored to be on his board of directors. (11)

In 1919 JAMA's Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry ruled that Collosol Argentum, along with several other of the Crookes' Laboratory products, were "inadmissible to New and Nonofficial Remedies," stating that "In the few cases in which the therapeutic claims for these preparations were examined, the claims were found to be so improbable or exaggerated as to have necessitated the rejection of these products." (12)

Further down in the same article referring to Collosol Hydrargyrum and Collosol Ferrum they said that, "If either of these preparations were injected intravenously as directed, death might result, making the physician morally if not legally liable." (13)

A. Legge Roe did write about the great success he had treating gonorrhoeal opthamalia with collosol argentum. He also stated, "It is the most useful preparation that has been placed in our hands since the introduction of cocaine." (14)

In 1939 Hartman, a chemist not a medical doctor, included a chapter on colloids in medicine in his chemistry book. On p.536 he said that CSP is safe enough to be put into the eyes and nose. He also stated on the same page that, "Intramuscular injections of colloidally suspended lead are of value in arresting certain cancerous growths." (15) His source for all the material on colloids in medicine was Crookes Laboratories.

I felt as if I were doing quack genealogy. A quack quoting a quack quoting a quack.

Misquoted Reputable Authors
Another article about silver that colloidal silver promoters often referred to was one by Jim Powell which appeared in the March 1978 edition of the now defunct popular magazine Science Digest. They always referred to it as "Our Mightiest Germ Fighter."

When I tracked down the magazine, I discovered that the article didn't mention colloidal silver and that the full title was, "Perhaps it soon will be recognized as OUR MIGHTIEST GERM FIGHTER."

Why do you think promoters never mention the first half of the title? Could it be because they know that the promise never materialized and they don't want readers to find out?

Another reference constantly appearing in the quack promotional material is the book ARGYRIA, (16) which truly is the definitive work on the subject. It was written in 1939 by Hill and Pillsbury. Promoters say that it states that "properly prepared colloidal silver" never caused argyria and that 95 percent of the cases resulted from silver nitrate.

What the book really says, and I'm probably one of the few people on earth who has a copy, is that in a study of 214 cases for which data was available, "silver nitrate is the responsible compound in over half the cases. Again it must be pointed out that the number of cases due to other compounds may be no real indication of their relative capacity for the production of argyria, but rather an evidence of their popularity as a medicinal agent." (17)

Regarding CSP, "It is impossible to make a definitive statement concerning the amount of a colloidal silver compound which may be instilled into a body cavity without the possibility of argyria." (18)

The authors called for further studies and warning labels on all silver medicinals. (19) They also pointed out that it had never been determined whether or not individual susceptibilities exist. Are some people more likely to develop argyria than others? (20) We still don't know.

Hill & Pillsbury added, "there is no evidence indicating that the giving of extremely small amounts of silver over a prolonged period in any way lessens the danger of argyria from any given amount of silver compound." (21)

In 1975 Goodman & Gilman stated that, "There is no acceptable evidence that the routine use of silver solutions for the prophylaxis of colds or other respiratory tract infections is at all efficacious, and cases of argyria have resulted from this practice. Fortunately, the colloidal silver preparations are now in a deserved oblivion." (22)

There is no animal model for argyria. (23) It can take decades to develop. (24) There have been reported cases in which it did not appear until several years after the drug was discontinued. (25)

Silver workers have developed argyria, presumably from inhaling silver dust. (26) One person's skin discoloration was caused by the electrolytic action between a gold and a silver filing. Saliva caused the silver to go into solution. (27)

1990s Snake Oil
Contrary to promoters' claims, we still ingest silver in our diets. (28) Some drinking water contains silver. At what concentration of silver does drinking water turn into CSP? I've never been able to get a salesperson to tell me this. Hopefully all they are really selling is very expensive, distilled water, but no one knows for sure since CSP is now sold as a "dietary supplement." As such it is unregulated by any government agency. Only the manufacturer knows what's in the bottle.

On p. 26 of the April 1997 issue of Vegetarian Times, a magazine that promotes supplements, it states that the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), a trade group in Newport Beach, CA, says that "some metal colloid products have been found to be high in toxic metals such as aluminum. Others have no detectable levels of the desirable metal listed on the label." NNFA advises consumers taking colloidal silver to have it analyzed by an independent laboratory.

A doctor told me that he had a bottle of CSP prepared by a pharmacist analyzed and discovered that it was just very expensive tap water. I find it very interesting that probably thousands of people are all reporting similar wonderful health and medical benefits from products that only have one thing in common, the labels all say "colloidal silver."

I believe this is ample proof that individuals and doctors are not capable of determining whether or not a drug is safe and effective. Scientific investigations start with anecdotal evidence, but they don't end there.

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