Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1989;15(3):210-221    pdf


Absence of toxic effects in silver reclamation workers.

by Pifer JW, Friedlander BR, Kintz RT, Stockdale DK

Recent reports have alleged that silver presents a toxic hazard to exposed workers. To define the potential risks of long-term exposure to silver better, a cross-sectional investigation was conducted of 27 Caucasian males occupationally exposed to primarily insoluble silver compounds and 27 matched referents. Physical examination and electron microscopy of skin biopsies revealed no cases of generalized argyria. Measurements of facial discoloration, judged from color photographs by panels of laymen and physicians, showed no significant difference between the two groups. Although 29% of the silver workers and none of the referents exhibited ocular silver deposition, optometric and contrast sensitivity test results revealed no significant deficits in visual performance. The kidney and respiratory findings were essentially normal in both populations. Despite the increased presence of silver in the blood, feces, and hair of the recovery workers versus the referents, there was no evidence that chronic silver exposure adversely affected the health of these employees.