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Penny wise, pound foolish--Doctors warn tonics sold on web risky

By Cai Wenjun and Xu Chi   (Shanghai Daily)

09:45, January 16, 2013

(File Photo)

Doctors from Ruijin Hospital warned local residents not to blindly believe exaggerated claims of imported medicine or health tonics after they admitted a 26-year-old woman with serious silver poisoning who had taken a remedy called colloidal silver purchased from an overseas website.

The woman, surnamed Wang, who has psoriasis, an immune-related disease that affects the skin, bought the liquid after someone recommended it, hospital officials said yesterday. Psoriasis has no cure.

Colloidal silver is a suspension of tiny metallic silver particles in a liquid.

The silver-containing products are marketed online with claims that they can kill bacteria and viruses and are effective against AIDS, cancer, parasites, chronic fatigue, acne, warts, hemorrhoids, enlarged prostate and many other conditions.

However, long-term use of such silver products can cause silver poisoning, harming the health of skin, eyes and organs, doctors said.

Wang developed a blue-gray face, a dramatic symptom of argyria, which is accumulation of silver in the body, after taking the product. She lost her job because of the strange color.

Doctors found she had 25 times more silver in her body than healthy people and started treatment immediately.

Dr Brent Bauer, an internist at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, wrote in a column that "colloidal silver isn't considered safe or effective for any of the health claims manufacturers make. Silver has no known purpose in the body. Nor is it an essential mineral, as some sellers of silver products claim."

On e-commerce platform, imported colloidal silver products are sold as health supplements costing from 100 yuan (US$16.07) to 600 yuan each. Vendors make many claims for the product and also say they are safe. But instructions in English with some of the products say that adults can take them for no more than 10 days at a time. Also, the instructions say the silver in the products may react with chlorinated water and cause sediment in the body.

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