A race I’m developing has grey skin due to silver buildup similar to Argyria. I was wondering if Argyria affects the blood or bone color.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The simple answer is no (a review of Argyria online answered this question pretty quickly). On the other hand, we do have a question on the site that might give you some ideas. Would it be possible for mammals to evolve blue blood? Blue blood could conceivably mean blue marrow. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 26 '20 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ Nothing I’ve read about Argyria touches on the subject of blood or bones experiencing color change but that’s by no means a definitive no that it doesn’t occur. Do you have a source that specifically touches on this topic? My understanding of how Argyria works is that the silver turns into silver salts in the stomach which then bonds with sulfur in the blood to create silver sulfide. The blood carries it to the skin where it turns back to pure silver and act so as pigmentation. Silver sulfide being black in color, I’d expect it to have some effect... $\endgroup$ – Samuel Hope Nov 26 '20 at 8:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I do not, but it's a bit like saying that nothing written about the common cold says it causes cancer, so it might be possible. No, it isn't. That's not how the medical industry works. If Argyria caused color changes in blood or bone even to the smallest degree, it would have been mentioned in the literature. Keep in mind that the bluing effect occurs over a considerable amount of time because it builds up in the skin. It's not building up in the blood, it's just being transported, which is why blood doesn't change color. (Bone is even less involved.) $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 26 '20 at 16:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ However, there's a huge difference between "what I want to do is scientifically explained" and "because science says X it's believable in my world to do Y." Unless you're specifically trying to make your story 100% scientifically accurate, don't get hung up on doing so. In fact, unless you have expertise in the subjects, it's not even valuable to try. Use Argyria to develop a rule in your world, nothing more. Good stories are often ruined by the effort the justify or explain the smallest details. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 26 '20 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ Just a point to consider: humans get argyria because we don't have a biological use for silver; I'd suspect that if silver is so plentiful in your peoples' environment, their biology will probably have some use for it. In other words it may not actually end up residing in their skin. (Though of course, it certainly could, if you wish!) $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Nov 29 '20 at 0:11

It could. First you need to clarify what is important to your story and what is a consequence of a current explanation of that. So, what is a MUST in your story?

  1. The race has grey skin. The why can change. As in "their skin color was associated with both strength and purity, as it reassembles silver".
  2. The race has biological use of silver. The how can change. As in "they were predated by humans to extract their silver".
  3. The race has grey skin and biological use of silver, no need to be related.
  4. The race must have grey skin as a consequence of silver.

In law 3 you also need to clarify: 4.a) Use of silver and grey skin are not beneficial traits per se, but a indirect consequence (example: is part of their diet). 4.b) Use of silver is a biological need.

In every scenario your get a different answer. Note that: • The color of an element when bond to others, and in its elemental state do not necessarily matches. • Usually, in order to be useful, elements are combined in different ways, and not in their elemental state (oxidation state: 0). Example: the iron on the blood is on +2 state. • As stated by the other answer, silver is not a good alternative to iron on blood. Also, it's very very rare in comparison to iron, so "evolution favored silver because it was more abundant" is not convincing. • On argyria, the color is because of light induced silver reduction. The silver is on 1+ oxidation state binded to something, and by action of light is reduced to elemental (metallic) state, of 0. • If redox occurs uncontrolled can cause grate damage, as in argyria. But, if it's controlled (in some specialized cell organell) it could have some advantage. • In this case, I can imagine at least two (which can concur): ° The redox by light can facilitate some reactions, as in humans helps to produce D vitamin). ° The silver ion (1+) has anti microbe action.


Probably not. The colour of blood is red because of the iron containing compound haemoglobin present in RBCs (which constitute about 55% of our blood). There is no precedent for grey blood or bone as far as I know. Silver blood would have to be based on an entirely new kind of biochemistry, though I heavily doubt that. Silver is a much heavier element than iron and much less reactive. It couldn't be part of a compound that delivers oxygen so quickly or is even capable of bonding to oxygen so readily. If you say their blood turns grey because of a high concentration of a silver compound, it is extremely improbable as the organism would die much before that happens.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There are people whose blood goes gray and skin goes blue due to silver buildup. It's a temporary condition caused by some medicines. It is not lethal. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Mar 25 at 14:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was talking about permanent grey blood, I understand my answer may have been a little vague. Also, as far as I know, the only cases of grey blood prevalent are grey discharges during periods. Further, he was asking if argyria causes grey blood which it doesn't, not permanently, as i explained. Grey blood may exist due to some rare genetic disorder, but I don't think an entire race could survive with grey blood, seeing how important haemoglobin and the linked oxygen absorption process is. $\endgroup$ – Kshitij Dalal Mar 29 at 4:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.