The toxicity of colloidal silver and risk of cancer


Scientific American in 2008 published an article entitled: Do Nanoparticles in Food Pose a Health Risk? The article reports the widespread use of nanoparticles (NPs) in food or food-related products that do not bear the warning that they may pose a health risk. The FDA does not require NPs to be proved safe, but rather requires the foods having NPs to not be harmful. In 2006, the EPA began to regulate nanosilver as a pesticide and as a result companies using nanosilver as an antimicrobial agent are required to register them as pesticides. Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, insist that reporting of nanosilver use by companies should be mandatory, given the potential risks and has suggested the definition of what constitutes a health risk to include NPs < 300 nm in diameter. But Andrew Maynard of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars notes it is the effect rather than the size that is significant. See

Toxicity by Surface Area and Size

Currently, the mechanism by which NPs pose a health risk is not well understood. NP size controls the surface area and therefore the effectiveness of colloidal silver. NPs are thought to be more reactive than larger particles of the same substance, because they have more surface area and therefore have more opportunity to interact with other substances in their surroundings, i.e., a material that is otherwise harmless at the macroscale is likely to be toxic if it is processed to the nanoscale as NPs. See The problem with quantifying toxicity by NP surface area and size is that both lack a mechanism to produce EM energy of at least 5 eV to form the reactive oxidative species (ROS) necessary to act as bactericidal agents. EM stands for electromagnetic. Similarly, the significance of “effect rather the size” in toxicity suggested by the Wilson Center lacks a mechanism to produce the ROS.

QED Induced EM Radiation Toxicity

More recently, the toxicity mechanism of NPs capable of producing ROS was proposed to find origin in quantum mechanics. Toxicity is found to almost be independent of the material, although silver has received the most attention because of its use as a bactericide in baby food. By this theory, atoms in NPs lack specific heat because at ambient temperature the heat capacity in submicron NPs resides at wavelengths < 1 micron that may only be populated at temperatures greater than about 6000 K. At ambient temperature, the heat capacity is therefore “frozen out”, and so NPs lack the heat capacity to conserve absorbed EM energy from colliding water molecules in body fluids by an increase in temperature. Conservation may only proceed by the QED induced frequency up-conversion of absorbed EM energy to the EM resonance of the NP. QED stands for quantum electrodynamics. Typically, ionizing QED radiation is emitted at UV or higher levels thereby producing the ROS that damage DNA from which cancer may develop. NPs < 100 nm are required to produce ROS through ionizing radiation. In contrast, NPs > 100 nm emit non-ionizing QED radiation in the VIS and IR. See at “DNA damage by NPs”, 2010.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver comprising silver NPs in solution is related to the controversy over the risks of silver NPs in food products. Colloidal silver has been used for fighting infections for thousands of years. But for the last 40 years, silver colloids have been proven to be cancer-causing agents. Indeed, silver is listed in the 1979 Registry of Toxic Effects as causing cancer in animals. Silver finds antibiotic action from the fact that it is a non-selective toxic biocide. See e.g.,  Regardless, fine silver NPs provide greater effectiveness than coarse NPs because toxicity is predicated on exposing the infected region to the largest possible surface area. See

 Safe Colloidal Silver?

Currently, comments to the Scientific American article stated if the widely touted “natural antibiotic” usage of colloidal silver is a potentially dangerous thing, then: Are there any safe colloidal silvers? Or Are the silver components in such preparations larger than problematic?  

Answers to these questions depend on effectiveness. Colloidal silver is perfectly safe if not taken at all, but is not effective if other antibiotic agents are not used. Least effective are silver colloids with coarse NPs > 100 nm because the QED radiation emitted by the NPs in the VIS and IR is non-ionizing. Most effective are fine NPs < 100 nm, but come at the risk of damaging the DNA by UV or higher ionizing radiation that can lead to cancer.

 Moreover, coarse NPs accompanied by fine NPs actually enhance the DNA damage above that by fine NPs alone. Hence, manufacturers would have to guarantee that all NPs in the colloidal silver are > 100 nm to avoid ionizing radiation. Manufacturers of colloidal silver would be required to label the minimum size of NPs in their products to allow the customer himself to weigh the risk of DNA damage to antibiotic effectiveness.  


1. NPs by emitting QED induced ionizing radiation are significant antibiotic agents, but pose a health risk by collateral damage to DNA the consequence of which may lead to cancer. DNA damage must always be considered in the use of NPs as antibiotics.

2. All NP materials produce about the same QED radiation because their refractive indices are similar. Therefore, only the NP size distinguishes whether ionizing or non-ionizing is emitted. Labeling of the minimum size of NPs in a product allows the customer to weigh the respective advantages and disadvantages.

3. Colloidal silver with NPs < 100 nm produce ionizing QED radiation at UV or higher levels that damage the DNA and can lead to cancer even though being used for thousands of years.

4. Safe colloidal silver may be found at minimum effectiveness. If manufacturer control all NPs > 100 nm, non-ionizing QED radiation is then emitted.  Controlling NPs > 300 nm can only err on the safe side.

5. The safest way of avoiding future cancers caused by DNA damage is to ban all NPs < 300 nm from food products, especially baby food.

Mystery of Lightning in the Iceland volcano solved by Nanoparticles?

Charge produced at the instant nanoparticles form upon rubbing of ash particle surfaces may solve the long-standing mystery of how lightning in volcanoes is electrified.


The lightning observed in the plume of the Iceland volcano has renewed interest not only in how the volcano is electrified, but also how ice in the updraft of a thunderstorm produces lightning.

The electrification of volcanoes is generally thought caused by the rubbing of solid ash particles while that in thunderstorms is by the rubbing of ice particles. But the mechanism by which rubbing of particles produces the electrification has remained a mystery. See

Common belief is that rubbing removes electrons from particle surfaces, but this is unlikely because the electron is more tightly bound to the atom than the atoms are bound to each other, and therefore rubbing tends to only produce tiny clusters of neutral atoms called nanoparticles (NPs). Indeed, electrons are unlikely to be removed from a material by any form of mechanical energy. By the photoelectric effect, Einstein over a century ago showed only electromagnetic (EM) radiation may remove electrons from a material.


Observation based on the foregoing allow the hypothesis that NPs comprising clusters of otherwise neutral atoms upon forming by rubbing solid surfaces somehow produce the EM radiation that by the photoelectric effect charges the NP by removing electrons.

Lightning by NPs in Thunderstorms

In the updraft of the thunderstorm, moisture is carried upward at high velocity and freezes at about 10,000 m. Submicron NPs may be formed directly from the moisture, but generally millimeter sized ice particles are produced. With the ice particles moving upward, other ice particles already having reached maximal height are falling downward to the earth under gravity. NPs generally form by the rubbing of particle surfaces in the collisions between upward and downward moving ice particles.

Of importance is the size differences between macroscopic particles and NPs. QM allows atoms in the macroscopic ice particles to have the thermal kT energy necessary absorb EM energy. Here QM stands for quantum mechanics, k for Boltzmann’s constant, and T for absolute. Classically, the atom in NPs is allowed to store the same amount of thermal energy as in macroscopic particles. But QM limits the amount of thermal energy stored by the atom depending on the particle size and temperature. At ambient and freezing temperatures, most of the thermal energy of the atom is stored at wavelengths greater than about 50 microns, but rapidly vanishes for NPs having wavelengths of a few microns. Therefore, at the instant the NPs form, the atoms have thermal energy in excess of that allowed by QM. If the NPs could increase in temperature, the excess thermal energy would be conserved. But QM also requires the specific heat of the atoms in NPs to vanish, and therefore the excess thermal energy cannot be conserved by an increase in temperature.

Conservation may only proceed by the QED induced up-conversion of the excess thermal energy in the FIR to the EM confinement frequency of the NP. Since the submicron size of the NP confines the FIR energy to EM frequencies in the UV and beyond, the NP spontaneously charge positive and emit electrons by the photoelectric effect. With the earth surface charged positive prior to the thunderstorm, the electrons attach to the downward falling ice particles and tend to charge the earth negative. Accumulation of charge from NPs during the storm therefore produces a large potential difference between the thundercloud and the earth that upon electrical breakdown creates cloud-to-ground lightning. However, the potential difference may occur within the thundercloud itself as commonly observed in cloud-to-cloud lightning.

However, only submicron NPs produce the ionizing radiation at UV or higher levels necessary to produce charge that electrifies the thunderstorm. Micron or larger sized ice articles that form on rubbing lack the EM confinement of thermal energy and only produce non-ionizing IR or FIR radiation.

Volcano Lightning by NPs

The charging process in volcanic lightning is similar to that in thunderstorms except that the NPs are produced by the rubbing of macroscopic particles of ash instead of ice. The ash particles are ejected from the volcano at high velocity only to collide and rub with those particles falling back to the volcano. Again, charge separation occurs as the positive charged NPs tend to move upward leaving the free electrons to attach to the downward falling particles.

Unlike thunderstorms, the ash need not move to high altitude to form solid particles, and therefore volcanic lightning is more efficient than that in thunderstorms, and therefore potential differences can reach breakdown over shorter separation distances. As shown in the thumbnail, volcano lightning is observed by electrical breakdown within the ash plume itself as in cloud-to-cloud lightning of thunderstorms.


The mysterious source of charge in thundercloud and volcano lightning finds commonality in the hypothesis that electrification in all natural processes is unified by rubbing NPs off solid surfaces. Other natural world mysteries possibly solved by NPs include Gecko walking on ceilings, X-rays from pulling Scotch tape from the roll, flow electrification in gasoline fires, ball lightning and St. Elmo’s fire, enhanced chemical reactions in tribochemistry. See “Unified Theory of Electrification in Natural Processes,” and other papers in , 2009-10

Nanoparticles do not damage DNA across barriers by signaling molecules

Ionizing radiation emitted by nanoparticles damages the DNA by penetrating barriers instead of the nanoparticle signaling across the barrier for the DNA to be damaged

Damage by Nanoparticles
On November 4, scientists at the University of Bristol announced that nanoparticles (NPs) of cobalt-chromium damaged DNA on the other side of a cellular barrier. See The NPs did not cause the damage by passing through th DNA e barrier which is usually thought. Instead, the Bristol scientists claimed the NPs generated signaling molecules within the barrier cells that were then transmitted to cause damage in cells on the other side of barrier.

However, the NP signaling molecules to induce DNA damage is not likely. Setting aside the fact NPs are inanimate lacking the capability of biological signaling, it is more likely the NPs generate electromagnetic (EM) radiation that readily penetrates the molecular barrier to cause DNA damage. Even if the molecular barrier is replaced with a thin nanometer metal film, the EM radiation can penetrate the film and damage the DNA on the other side.

On October 18-22, at the IEEE Nanomed 2009 Conference in Taiwan, DNA damage was claimed caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation induced in NPs by quantum electrodynamics (QED). See “DNA damage update” Paper and Presentation at By this theory, water molecules in body fluids transfer upon collision thermal kT energy at infrared (IR) frequencies to the NPs. However, quantum mechanics (QM) forbids the NPs to have specific heat, and therefore the absorbed kT energy from collisions cannot be conserved by an increase in temperature. Instead, conservation proceeds as the IR radiation is induced by QED to be frequency up-converted to the EM confinement of the NP, typically at UV or even higher frequencies. Subsequently, the UV leaks to the surroundings to cause DNA damage.

NPs provide a significant antibacterial agent in food processing, reducing infections in burn treatment, sunscreen skin lotions, and treating cancer tumors. However, there is a darkside. Over the past decade, experiments have unequivocally shown NPs to induce DNA damage and mimic that by conventional ionizing radiation. See Ibid. What enables the NPs to function to benefit mankind while at the same time posing a health risk is the remarkable fact NPs naturally emit a low level source of continuous UV or higher EM radiation.

The NPs need not be irradiated with lasers, as only collisions with surrounding molecules are sufficient to produce ionizing radiation. The wavelength of the EM radiation is given by 2Dn, where D is the NP diameter, and n is its refractive index. In the Bristol tests, D ~ 30 nm and taking an average n ~ 2.3, the EM radiation had a wavelength of about 140 nm and Planck energy or 8.8 eV.

The DNA damage induced by NPs is a cancer risk if not properly repaired. Given that NPs naturally produce low levels of ionizing radiation beyond the UV from surrounding water molecules, and that natural and man-made NPs are ubiquitous, the conjecture may be made that NPs are the most likely cause of cancers in man. Given the increased risk of NPs producing cancer, the regulation of NPs is highly recommended.