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Silver, Metal and Soluble Compounds (as Ag)

General Description

Synonyms:  Silver metal: Argentum; Soluble silver compounds: Vary depending upon the specific compound, such as silver nitrate (AgNO3)

OSHA IMIS code: 2240

CAS number(s): 7440-22-4 (metal)

Exposure Limits and Health Effects (Updated September 6, 2012)

Standard Set By Exposure Limit Health Effect Codes -- Health Effects and Target Organs
OSHA PEL - General Industry
See 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1
0.01 mg/m3 TWA HE3 -- argyria
OSHA PEL - Construction Industry
See 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A
0.01 mg/m3 TWA HE3 -- argyria
OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment
See 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z - Shipyards
0.01 mg/m3 TWA HE3 -- argyria
NIOSH REL 0.01 mg/m3 TWA HE3 -- argyria
HE4 -- eye and skin burns
HE14 -- eye and skin irritation
ACGIH TLV® (1992) Silver and compounds, metal, dust and fume: 0.1 mg/m3 TWA
Soluble compounds, as Ag:
0.01 mg/m3 TWA
HE2 -- lung cancer
HE3 -- argyria
CAL/OSHA PELs Metal: 0.01 mg/m3 TWA
Soluble compounds:
0.01 mg/m3 TWA

Argyria is a permanent blue-gray discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and/or the eyes as a result of silver exposure

Carcinogenic classification:

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): Not established

ATSDR Inhalation Minimal Risk Levels (MRLs): Not established

NIOSH IDLH concentration: 10 mg/m3 (as Ag)

Notes on other potential health effects and hazards:

  1. EPA's oral reference dose (RfD) for silver is 0.005 mg/kg/day (EPA 1996).
  2. While metallic silver appears to pose minimal risk to human health, soluble silver compounds may cause liver and kidney damage as well as changes in blood cells (Drake and Hazelwood 2005).
  3. Biological monitoring of different types of occupational exposure to silver by determining silver levels in whole blood found the highest levels in those working in silver reclamation (Armitage et al. 1996).
  4. Silver can be permanently deposited in connective tissue as silver metal, silver sulfide, or selenide to produce a slate-gray appearance (Drake and Hazelwood 2005).
  5. OSHA has had cases (e.g., precious metal refining facility, specialty battery manufacturer) involving worker overexposure to silver (Rosa 2004). Other reported cases have involved silver solderers in Mexico (Sanchez-Huerta et al. 2003) and a silver polisher in England (Kayarkar et al. 2003).
  6. Exposure to very high concentrations of silver may result in diffuse pulmonary fibrosis, visible on chest radiograms (ACGIH 2001).
  7. There is an increasing use of silver nanoparticles in many industries, and there is some evidence that suggests these nanoparticles could be cytotoxic. Exposure to silver nanoparticles may induce oxidative stress (Wasowicz et al. 2011) as well as cause DNA adducts and damage (Foldbjerg et al. 2011).

Partial reference list:

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Silver and Compounds. 2016.
  • Armitage, S.A., White, M.A. and Wilson, H.K.: The determination of silver in whole blood and its application to biological monitoring of occupationally exposed groups. Ann. Occup. Hyg. 40(3): 331-338, 1996.
  • Drake, P.L. and Hazelwood, K.J.: Exposure-related health effects of silver and silver compounds: a review. Ann. Occup. Hyg. June 17, 2005.
  • EPA: IRIS - Silver (CASRN 7440-22-4). December 1, 1996.
  • Foldbjerg, R., Dang, DA., Autrup, H.: Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of silver nanoparticles in the human lung cancer cell line, A549. Arch Toxicol. 85(7): 743-750, 2011.
  • Kayarkar, R., Parker, A.J. and Geopel, J.R.: The Sheffield nose - an occupational disease? Rhinology 41(2): 125-126, 2003.
  • NIOSH/CEC/IPCS: International Chemical Safety CardsSilver. September 10, 1997.
  • NIOSH: Occupational Health Guideline - Silver Metal and Soluble Silver Compounds. September 1978.
  • Rosa, C.: OSHA compliance issues. Overexposure to silver on a programmed lead inspection. J. Occup. Environ. Hyg. 1(9): D93-95, 2004.
  • Sanchez-Huerta, V., De Wit-Carter, G., Hernandez-Quintela, E. and Naranjo-Tackman, R.: Occupational corneal argyrosis in art silver solderers. Cornea 22(7): 604-611, 2003.
  • Wasowicz, W. et al.: Evaluation of biological effects of nanomaterials. Part I. Cyto- and genotoxicity of nanosilver composites applied in textile technologies. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 24(4): 248-358, 2011.

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