Silver is used in many practical ways in everyday life and has been for thousands of years.
The odds are fairly good that you will come into contact with practical uses of silver today, especially if you work in health care or have health care products in your home.
This shiny metal has been used as an antimicrobial agent for many centuries. The earliest recorded use of silver for therapeutic purposes dates back to the Han Dynasty in China around 1500 BC. Hippocrates first described silver’s antimicrobial properties in 400 BC. Ancient civilizations applied the metal to open wounds. Ship captains tossed silver coins into storage barrels to keep drinking water fresh.
Silver’s everlasting popularity as a bacteria killer has led to the development of modern innovations to everyday products, including:
- Odor control in clothing: running shirts, underwear, socks, shoe insoles
- Food cutting boards
- Hand washing basins
- Bed rails in hospitals
- Light switches
- Door handles
- Food storage containers
- Water tanks and purification systems
- Bedding and hospital gowns
Silver is also seen as a promising antibacterial agent to prevent infection in orthopedic implants.
What is it about silver that works against bacteria? It is believed that small amounts of silver disrupt bacteria’s metabolism by preventing it from converting nutrients into energy, which inhibits bacteria survival, reproduction and colonization.
In fact, scientists at the University of Calgary have begun to map out which genes in E. coli bacteria are resistant to silver and which are not – in the hope that silver will be able to be used in a wider range of health and medical applications.
Dr. Carolyn Dean