There’s the Blue Man Group, Picasso’s ”blue period” and the famed Blue Note jazz club in NYC. But you ain’t never seen blue until you’ve seen Paul Karason, Rosemary Jacobs and Stan Jones. ”How’s that?”, you say. Well, they’re all blue (and no, I don’t mean in that “woe is me, I’m so depressed”, kind of blue). Karason, Jacobs and Jones suffer from argyria, a condition that causes their skin to literally turn blue.
Argyria is a condition caused by improper exposure to chemical forms of the element silver, silver dust, or silver compounds.The most dramatic symptom of argyria is that the skin becomes blue or bluish-grey colored. The condition is usually permanent.
These three people have contracted agyria in different ways and each of their stories is fascinating and may actually make you feel, dare I say, more than a little ”blue” (pun intended):
Paul Karason started turning blue more than a decade ago after he used a silver preparation to treat a bad case of dermatitis on his face that broke out due to stress when his father died. He took the silver in colloidal form that he produced himself, using electrolysis. Karason is blue for life (or as you can see from the picture above more the color of a ripe Concord grape).
Karason’s hue however hasn’t stopped him from living a fairly normal life. Three years ago, after he appeared on the Today show, he became something of a minor celebrity in his town of Madera, Calif.
Soon he went from a man who didn’t like to speak in public and didn’t appreciate the often-negative attention his singular skin color brought him to giving interviews on national shows and being approached with acceptance by people who had seen his story. He even got engaged several years ago (though there’s no official wedding date).
And most amazing of all, his overall health is fine. Though he did have a bout of prostate cancer three years ago, it was determined that it was unrelated to his skin condition.
Tired of a living in the shadows, Rosemary Jacobs allowed a local Long Island, New York newspaper to tell her story. The headline?: “The Silver Woman From Long Island. The Face That No One Forgets.”
Jacobs wasn’t always blue, however. She remembers when she was eleven years old, her mother mentioned to an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist that she always had a cold. He told her that it had to be allergies and prescribed nose drops that contained silver with instructions to take them “intermittently as needed.” Jacobs took her drops every other day for four years.
It wasn’t however, until Jacobs helped out at a local hospital that a pharmacist passed her in the hall seemed startled by her appeareance. ”Why are you that color?” he asked Jacobs. “What color?”, she wondered. No one had noticed that her color was weird until then. But suddenly everyone started noticing Jacob’s skin was slate-gray.
Eventually Jacob’s mother took her to the dermatologist who took some tests and asked her mother if she was taking any particular medications. When her mother mentioned the nose drops, the dermatologist told her to stop taking them. “They have silver in them. That’s why you’re gray”, Jacobs recalls the dermatologist telling her.
Soon a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of argyria showing all the little specks of silver in her skin. Unfortunately, that is the only information that Jacobs has ever gotten about the drug that disfigured her. “No one ever sued doctors back then”, Jacobs says.
In the 1970′s Jacobs underwent agonizing skin dermabrasion where the top layer of skin is removed, leaving it raw. Her face healed but she was left with a pink and blotchy complexion. I don’t think I look much better now,” she said.
Jacobs now runs a website to warn others of the danger of colloidal silver.
If anyone has the right to say “what was I thinking?!” that person has to be Stan Jones. Jones, who is a Libertarian Party politician and once unsuccessfully ran for US Senate, developed argyria by consuming home-made colloidal silver, a concoction he made due to fears the Year 2000 problem would make antibiotics unavailable.
Jones brewed his home-made colloidal silver by using tap water and salt with a battery colloidal silver generator, and let his generator run for an hour, which not only produced an abundance of silver chloride, but also produced larger particles of silver. He drank eight ounces or more of this product containing an extremely high concentration of silver daily for at least two years.
The peculiar coloration of his skin featured prominently in media coverage of his unsuccessful campaign though Jones allegedly believes that the most prominent photo was “doctored.” And while Jones admits to being somewhat embarrassed by his blue skin, it’s not enough to refrain from running for public office.
And by the way, Jones continues to promote the use of colloidal silver as a home remedy.
So in the end, being blue may not be the best thing in the world, but, as Kermit the Frog so famously observed, “it’s not easy being green”, either.
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