Paul Karason, the man who turned blue after ingesting silver, has died at the age of 62. He became affectionately known as “Papa Smurf” and it is believed a condition called argyria is what turned him blue, but is not a cause of his death.
His death came as a result of a stroke he suffered while hospitalized for pneumonia and heat stroke. The pneumonia was contracted after Karason had a heart attack. It is Karason’s strange blue skin color that brought him to the nation’s attention in 2008, when he revealed on an appearance of the ‘Today’ show the effects of taking silver.
Before the discovery of penicillin, silver was used to fight infection. It has antibacterial properties and it popularity continued until the 1930s. In 1999 the FDA banned it after it was linked to the condition argyria, a reaction to light with the collection of silver in the skin.
Colloidal silver products, such as the kind taken by Karason, are made of tiny particles of silver mixed into a liquid and turned into tablets, but may also be injected or rubbed on the skin. They are believed by many to be a cure-all for a variety of health conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDs, herpes, shingles, prostatitis, and ailments of the eyes. Karason was taking it to help with a severe case of dermatitis. The silver in these supplements is the same silver used in dental fillings, jewelry, and flatware. According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, silver serves no purpose in the human body, it is not an essential mineral and it is not considered safe by the medical community.
It is the build-up in the body from prolonged exposure to the silver that creates conditions for argyria. Karason took colloidal silver for over a decade, even after the argyria had led to creation of the blue pigmentation in his skin. The blue discoloration extends from the skin to the eyes to nails, gums, and internal organs. Argyria is more of a cosmetic concern since it does not ever go away, even after a person stops taking it. Argyria is not life threatening and was not considered a cause in the death of “Papa Smurf.”
Argyria has also been seen in those who work around silver, such as miners, silver refiners, and those who work in silverware manufacturing, electroplating, and process photographs. Some surgical and dental procedures can also cause the blue molecules to appear. Small sites such as from acupuncture needles or from where silver earrings are worn can also exhibit blue pigmentation. Whether or not an individual will have argyria depends on the length of time and amount of the dose, which varies from person to person.
Karason also had a history of unrelated health problems, including a heart condition that necessitated triple bypass surgery. In an interview he revealed he was recovering from prostate cancer as well.
He drew crowds wherever he went, but explained in an interview that, “people were positive,” about his skin color. When asked if he would take the silver again, knowing what the results would be, he answered, no, he wouldn’t.
The FDA has made diligent efforts to take action against colloidal silver manufacturers who are making false health claims. Argyria seems to be the least of the products concerns. Taking colloidal silver products in excess can cause serious problems, including kidney damage and may have a negative reaction with medications such as penicillamine, and other medicines. For Karason, also known as “Papa Smurf,” it looks like the argyria was not the cause of his death.
By: Lisa Nance