Exposure-related health effects of silver and silver compounds: a review

Ann Occup Hyg. 2005 Oct;49(7):575-85. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/mei019. Epub 2005 Jun 17.


A critical review of studies examining exposures to the various forms of silver was conducted to determine if some silver species are more toxic than others. The impetus behind conducting this review is that several occupational exposure limits and guidelines exist for silver, but the values for each depend on the form of silver as well as the individual agency making the recommendations. For instance, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has established separate threshold limit values for metallic silver (0.1 mg/m3) and soluble compounds of silver (0.01 mg/m3). On the other hand, the permissible exposure limit (PEL) recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the recommended exposure limit set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is 0.01 mg/m3 for all forms of silver. The adverse effects of chronic exposure to silver are a permanent bluish-gray discoloration of the skin (argyria) or eyes (argyrosis). Most studies discuss cases of argyria and argyrosis that have resulted primarily from exposure to the soluble forms of silver. Besides argyria and argyrosis, exposure to soluble silver compounds may produce other toxic effects, including liver and kidney damage, irritation of the eyes, skin, respiratory, and intestinal tract, and changes in blood cells. Metallic silver appears to pose minimal risk to health. The current occupational exposure limits do not reflect the apparent difference in toxicities between soluble and metallic silver; thus, many researchers have recommended that separate PELs be established.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Argyria / etiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Eye Diseases / chemically induced
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced
  • Silver / adverse effects
  • Silver / metabolism
  • Silver / toxicity*
  • Silver Compounds / adverse effects
  • Silver Compounds / metabolism
  • Silver Compounds / toxicity*
  • Societies, Medical
  • Solubility
  • United States


  • Silver Compounds
  • Silver