The use of silver in medical and purifying applications is a growing
industrial use that adds intrinsic value to the metal.
According to the Silver
While silver's importance as a bactericide has been documented only
since the late 1800s, its use in purification has been known throughout
the ages. Early records indicate that the Phoenicians, for example,
used silver vessels to keep water, wine and vinegar pure during their
long voyages. In America, pioneers moving west put silver and copper
coins in their water barrels to keep it clean.
In fact, "born with a silver spoon in his mouth" is also
a reference to health as well as wealth. In the early 18th century,
babies who were fed with silver spoons were healthier than those fed
with spoons made from other metals, and silver pacifiers found wide
use in America because of their beneficial health effects.
Today silver is used in many health-care products. Specifically silver
sulfadiazine is used by every hospital in North America to prevent
bacterial infections in burn victims and allow the body to restore
naturally the burnt tissue. It is used worldwide under the trade name
"Silvadiene." Increasingly, wound dressings and other wound
care products incorporate a layer of fabric containing silver for
prevention of secondary infections. Surgical gowns and draperies also
include silver to prevent microbial transmission. Other medical products
containing silver are catheters and stethoscope diaphragms.
In a world that is showing increasing concern about the spread of
diseases silver is being increasingly tapped for its biocidal properties.
Research is ongoing on the use of silver and its compounds for therapeutic
uses and on its potential use as a disinfectant in hospitals and other
medical facilities. Already, climate control system components and
ductwork using a silver containing coating are in place to prevent
the transmission of bacteria that cause Legionnaires disease. The
successful preparation of nano-sized silver particles offers additional
capabilities in the fight against pathogenic organisms and research
programs are under way to exploit these features.
And particularly as a water
Silver is employed as a bactericide and algaecide in an ever increasing
number of water purification systems in hospitals, remote communities
and, more recently, domestic households.
Silver ions have been used to purify drinking water and swimming pool
water for generations. New research into silver compounds is providing
physicians with powerful, clinically effective treatments against
which bacteria cannot develop resistance.
An increasing trend is the millions of on-the-counter and under-the-counter
water purifiers that are sold each year in the United States to rid
drinking water of bacteria, chlorine, trihalomethanes, lead, particulates,
and odor. Here silver is used to prevent the buildup of bacteria and
algae in the filters. Of the billions of dollars spent yearly in the
U.S. for drinking water purification systems, over half make advantageous
use of the bactericidal properties of silver. New research has shown
that the catalytic action of silver, in concert with oxygen, provides
a powerful sanitizer, virtually eliminating the need for the use of