Human Toxicity of Silver Nanoparticles
Several studies in the last few years have tried to make the issues around the toxicity of nanosilver clearer. Elemental silver at low doses is generally considered to be non-toxic, but long-term exposure can sometime cause damage to the liver, kidneys and blood cells.
Nanosilver has been shown to be absorbed into the body by inhalation, ingestion, and through the skin. The uptake rate is much greater for damaged skin, leading to demonstrably higher levels of silver in the blood and urine after nanosilver-treated wound dressings have been used.
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Although specific studies on the toxicity of silver nanoparticles are limited, it is generally accepted that their toxicity derives from the free silver ions they release - the toxicity can therefore be related to the speed of release of these ions. This is determined mostly by the particle size, and the type of environment the nanoparticles are in. It is therefore important to determine whether the ions are released before or after absorption into the body.