Until his death in 2013, Paul Karason garnered attention from the media as the notorious "blue man." However, Karason did not become famous on purpose. His trademark blue skin was the result of an alternative medical treatment he used to reduce the symptoms of dermatitis 15 years before he died. Although this treatment is known to be harmful, it did not cause his death, according to Fox News.
Why Was He Blue?
Karason’s blue skin was an unwanted side effect of his consumption of colloidal silver, which consists of small silver particles suspended in liquid. This side effect, which is known as argyria, occurs as a result of continued exposure to silver. According to Princeton University, silver builds up in the body over time, which leads to an accumulation of particles in the skin. As these particles are exposed to sunlight, they darken and take on a grayish-blue color. Localized argyria occurs when colloidal silver is applied topically, whereas systemic consumption of colloidal silver leads to generalized argyria. According to the National Institutes of Health, argyria is not reversible and cannot be treated.
Colloidal Silver: The Miracle Drug?
According to NYU Langone Medical Center, colloidal silver has antimicrobial properties and was once a popular antiseptic used in the US. Silver is also used in the form of a cream to prevent infection in the wounds of burn victims. In addition to its mainstream uses, silver is used by supplement manufacturers, who proclaim that colloidal silver can treat a variety of medical problems naturally.
Although Karason was using this concoction to treat his skin condition, the Mayo Clinic reports that manufacturers have also promoted colloidal silver as a treatment for prostatitis, eye ailments, herpes, HIV, cancer, viruses, and much more. However, the body does not require silver, and no reputable medical studies have demonstrated any benefit to consuming this mineral.
A Dangerous Idea
Despite the claims of manufacturers and other proponents, colloidal silver consumption is harmful to the human body. According to the National Institutes of Health, the most common side effect of consuming colloidal silver is argyria. However, colloidal silver may cause other health problems as well, including damage to the nervous system, liver, or kidneys. The NIH also reports that consuming colloidal silver may inhibit the absorption of medications, such as thyroxine and certain types of antibiotics.
Side Effects Not Welcome
Karason may have enjoyed some fame because of his unique skin color, but he was not happy about his blue skin. ABC News reports that Karason didn’t even notice the change at first. It was not until an old friend came to visit him and pointed out the color of his skin that Karason realized he was gradually turning blue. By the time Karason was aware of the problem, it was already apparent to strangers. According to Fox News, Karason became reclusive because of his blue skin, but he did not stop taking colloidal silver.
Karason died in September 2013 after suffering a heart attack. Colloidal silver is not believed to have been a factor in his death.
- Bauer BA. My dad takes colloidal silver for his health, but is it safe? Mayo Clinic website. September 3, 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/consumer-health/expert-answers/colloidal-silver/faq-20058061.
- Man with completely blue skin dies at 62. Fox News website. September 25, 2013. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/09/25/man-with-completely-blue-skin-dies-at-62/.