The public fear associated with the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has triggered recently a significant proliferation of supplements touted as potential cures against bacteria and viruses. Colloidal silver has particularly benefited from this rush given its empirically and scientifically documented anti-bacterial and anti-viral actions. The lack of standards in the unregulated supplements industry remains a major roadblock in evaluating the quality and consistency of marketed products or assessing the accuracy of the information provided by manufacturers. This study is the first scientifically rigorous attempt to evaluate commercial silver colloidal products offered for sale on the internet.
Fourteen of the most popular colloidal silver products purchased from Amazon (www.amazon.com) were evaluated using state-of-the-art analytical techniques widely accepted as gold standards for investigating the properties (size, shape) and the dispersion of silver nanoparticles.
Commercial samples were analysed using UV-Vis, FE-SEM and AAS techniques. In general, the Ag concentration was very close to those claimed by the manufacturer. The colorless product shows no absorbance in the UV-Vis analysis. The FESEM and STEM images confirmed the conclusions of the UV-Vis analysis.
The results of this evaluation show clearly that 70% of the commercial products evaluated contain only ionic silver. Despite the evidence showing that silver nanoparticles are not present, eight of these products are promoted by the manufacturers as 'colloidal silver'. Considering the extensive scientific research showing major differences between silver ionic and silver nanoparticles in terms of mechanisms of action, efficacy and safety, it is clear that this misrepresentation impacts the consumers and must be addressed. This study serves as blueprint for a scientific protocol to be followed by manufacturers for characterizing their silver supplements.