Papa Smurf Dies – Why Does Argyria Make You Turn Blue?


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Silver, an element on the periodic table has been known to treat many infections; however it can leave you looking blue. Image by: vectorisation

The medical community has used silver, an element on the periodic table, to treat many infections; however it can leave you looking blue if you take too much. Image by: vectorisation

Paul Karason, nicknamed ‘Papa Smurf’ developed a condition known as argyria, making his skin turn blue. He died Monday, September 23, 2013 at the age of 62, after being treated at Washington Hospital for pneumonia. Karason had recently suffered a heart attack and a severe stroke. How did he turn blue?

Colloidal Silver And Blue Skin

Karason was born fair – with freckles, and reddish-blonde hair; he developed argyria about 15 years ago, after seeing an advertisement in a new age magazine, that boasted the benefits of taking colloidal silver. According to ABC news, he drank about 10 ounces of colloidal silver a day, and used a silver-based preparation to treat a bad case of dermatitis.

Argyria Can Turn You Blue

Argyria is a condition that turns the skin a grayish or bluish color after the ingestion of too much silver. Doctors have known for years that silver had something to do with argyria, but no one really knew how or why until about a year ago. In October 2012, researchers at Brown University have found that a series of chemical reactions cause the condition known as argyria. According to Brown University, in this condition:

“… nanosilver is broken down in the stomach, absorbed into the bloodstream as a salt and finally deposited in the skin, where exposure to light turns the salt back into elemental silver and creates the telltale bluish hue. That final stage, oddly, involves the same photochemical reaction used to develop black-and-white photographs.”

Before antibiotics, doctors used colloidal silver for its antibacterial properties. Now, even though we understand how silver can be toxic, many people still take colloidal silver to treat infections. There are no life-threatening conditions associated with silver, according to the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, but at the least, it could turn you blue.

Colloidal Silver: Toxic, Rarely Fatal

Karason had other health problems that contributed to his death: Heart attack, severe, stroke, and pneumonia.

Colloidal silver, although toxic, has not been fatally-poisonous, except in one case: a 71-year-old man who developed persistent brain seizures after taking colloidal silver repeatedly. There is still a lot that we don’t know about the results of taking colloidal silver, so the medical community doesn’t recommend the use of silver as a treatment for any conditions.


ABC News. Internet Sensation ‘Papa Smurf’ Dies; Other Blue People Live On. September 25, 2013. Accessed September 26, 2013.

Brown University. How silver turns people blue. October 25, 2012. Accessed September 26, 2013.

CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. Silver. Updated October 2011. Accessed September 26, 2013.

Medline Plus. Methemoglobinemia. Updated March 22, 2013. Accessed September 26, 2013.

The Daily Mail. Meet Ben Stacy, the living descendant of the BLUE men of Appalachia – who was born discoloured too but grew out of it. February 23, 2013. Accessed September 26, 2013.

Today. Real-life ‘Blue Man’ dies after heart attack, stroke. September 24, 2013. Accessed September 26, 2013.

WebMd. Colloidal Silver. Accessed September 26, 2013.

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