The title of this post was inspired by a student blooper in a sociology paper where the writer surely did not mean to say "blue color workers". Spell checkers have their limits. In the right context, however, blue color workers is not a candidate for Richard Lederer's next collection.
Exposure to silver can cause argyria, in which the skin turns a grey-blue color as a result of deposits in the dermis of metallic silver and silver compounds. Unlike the orange coloration that eating too many carrots can cause, the dark grey cast of argyria is permanent. The condition can be striking if the entire body is affected. Barnum & Bailey's Blue Man was found at autopsy to have argyria, perhaps from exposure while working as a silver miner: a real blue color worker.
Argyria in this century is more likely a result of exposure to quantities of silver in non-industrial settings. Silver preparations were used pharmaceutically in the early 20th century, and much of the literature about silver and skin discoloration dates to that time. There are reports of cases of argyria arising from use of colloidal silver compounds. Externally applied, salts of silver are effective antiseptics, hence the marketing of these silver solutions as nutritional supplements "to support the immune systems" and as "all-natural antibiotics". There is no evidence that these compounds are effective in these ways when taken internally - and the risk of being permanently blue is not one to be taken lightly! The FDA has ruled that products containing silver or colloidal silver are "not safe and effective" and may not be sold as having any medicinal benefits. Despite this, colloidal silver is readily available.
The photo is of Rosemary Jacobs, who suffers from argyria, and is used with her permission. In 2006, Stan Jones, ran as the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Montana. He took a colloidal silver compound in 1999 and now has argyria as a result.
John Keats's "Chapman's Homer" (chemistry and drug discovery version)
12 hours ago in The Curious Wavefunction