Silver – it’s shiny, pretty, sparkly. We use it to make jewellery, coins, teapots and Olympic medals. But beneath its beautiful, shiny surface is a dynamic, magical metal. Did you know it’s one of the planet’s greatest weapons against germs? The so-called “oligodynamic effect”, silver’s unique three-fold attack system, makes it one of Mother Nature’s best antiseptics.
To celebrate the theme of this year’s Earth Day – Invest in Our Planet – Metals for Humanity (M4H) reveals the science behind silver’s incredible germ-fighting powers, and how M4H is investing in this humble metal to bring clean drinking water to thousands. It’s really as simple as adding a few drops of silver solution to a glass of water.
Silver has been used for millennia. The earliest recorded use for therapeutic purposes goes as far back as the Han Dynasty in China, and archaeologists still dig up silver-lined Grecian urns. The world’s oldest working silver mines date back to the sixteenth century when the metal was mined for minting coins. Today, it is used mostly for electrical and industrial technology as well as silverware and jewellery. Yet its most ancient, and arguably most powerful, function is to fight germs.
Silver’s unique three-fold attack system
The mechanism behind silver’s antiseptic powers is akin to a sophisticated military operation. The metal’s ions surround a germ’s cells, breach its defences and sabotage its fuel supplies to starve it to death. They set fire to what’s left, for good measure.
The precious metal’s antiseptic properties were largely forgotten about after the discovery of antibiotics, but now it’s silver's time to shine once more. More than 1.2 million people died in 2019 from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and by 2050, that could rise to ten million deaths a year. Silver’s three-fold attack system is so devastating that even superbugs cannot rise from the ashes of dead germs, making it quite literally a silver bullet against antibiotic-resistant germs.
The Pure Silver Initiative
Our idea is simple, and it started in Mexico where one in four people struggle daily to find clean water. It so happens that Mexico is also home to some of the world’s largest silver mines. Metals for Humanity works with miner Fresnillo plc to bring silver-based technologies to deliver clean water to local communities, both near mining sites and more broadly across the country. Our wider mission is to use the products of mining to fundamentally improve people’s lives.Our pioneering Pure Silver Initiative started in 2016 in Hidalgo, one of the worst-affected communities, where 300,000 families lack reliable access to clean drinking water. The Pure Silver Initiative team gave people colloidal silver drops to add to their drinking water and showed them how to test whether the water is clean.
Since then, we have rolled out our Clean Water Pilot Programme to ten communities across Hidalgo, Durango and Chihuahua, installing point-of-use water-disinfection systems in schools, healthcare centres and homes, and in Mexico City, installing water disinfection and hand washing systems in schools, benefiting over 23,500 people. We teach community members about the health benefits of silver so they can keep spreading the good word. The next phase is to expand our programme across all of Mexico and to other water-stressed countries, to help meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #6 of ensuring clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.
As you can see, silver is so much more than a pretty metal. As the planet’s oldest and most reliable germicide, it is Mother Nature’s best defence against some of our biggest problems, including lack of clean drinking water and antibiotic-resistant germs. This Earth Day, let’s spread the word about silver’s powerful properties and commit to investing in this precious metal to save lives.
Metals for Humanity: Making metals work for us all.
Read more about the success of the Pure Silver Initiative here.
See how our Pure Silver Initiative is bringing clean drinking water to thousands of people here.