Ecological and toxicological aspects of silver (Ag) in the environment are briefly summarized with an emphasis on natural resources. Elevated silver concentrations in biota occur in the vicinities of sewage outfalls, electroplating plants, mine waste sites, and silver-iodide seeded areas; in the United States, the photography industry is the major source of anthropogenic silver discharges into the biosphere. Silver and its compounds are not known to be mutagenic, teratogenic, or carcinogenic. Under normal routes of exposure, silver does not pose serious environmental health problems to humans at less than 50.0 ug total Ag/L drinking water or 10.0 ug per cubic meter air. Free silver ion, however, was lethal to representative species of sensitive aquatic plants, invertebrates, and teleosts at nominal water concentrations of 1.2 to 4.9 ug/L; sublethal effects were significant between 0.17 and 0.6 ug/L. Silver was harmful to poultry at concentrations as low as 1.8 mg total Ag/kg whole egg fresh weight by way of injection, 100.0 mg total Ag/L in drinking water, or 200.0 mg total Ag/kg in diets; sensitive mammals were adversely affected at total silver concentrations as low as 250.0 ug/L in drinking water, 6.0 mg/kg in diets, or 13.9 mg/kg whole body.
Additional publication details
Silver Hazards to Fish, Wildlife, and Invertebrates: A Synoptic Review
Contaminant Hazard Reviews
Report 32 ; Biological Report 32
U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Service