Friday, January 30, 2009

Socks with a silver lining

In the quest for the next new thing, a groving number of sock manufactures are incorporating nano-sized particles of silver into socks to kill bacteria that cause odor. But does the silver stay in the socks? And what happens to it if it washes out?

Silver is a natural antimicrobial, and even before we got the noghlede of bacteria, the effect of silver was well known. The Romans placed silver coins in wine to preserve freshness, and fixed them to wounds to help them heal with fewer infections. Silverware was also prized for preserving food and having some antimicrobial properties. Hospitals today still use silver wound dressings for burn victims. And with the development of nano tecnology, silver has found its way into many products.

In a resent study at Arizona State University's Troy Benn tested a variety of socks containing nanosilver. He wrote in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that some socks released nearly all of their nanosilver within the first four washings.

Silver is a naturally-occurring element, and is present in trace amounts in the environment. But as with many things, you can have too much of a good thing. And in larger concentrations, silver is a pollutant. Silver has been shown to harm fish and other aquatic organisms. And since it is such a powerful microbicide, environmentalists worry that flushing silver-containing wash water down the drain and dumping nanosilver products into landfills could affect the base layer of the ecosystem, the tiny bacteria and other microorganisms that every other living thing depends on - a scenario that is raising a lot of concern, especially becouse there are other ways of making products like socks antimicrobial

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