Everyone has probably had some silver in their hands at some point in their lives. It’s popular in jewelry, it used to be popular in household wares such as jugs, cups, etc. and it is widely used in a range of industries. Despite being considered a “precious” metal, silver is fairly cheap and that makes it very easy to acquire and use. But is a life full of silver a life staring down the barrel of a fire hazard?
Silver is not at all flammable in its solid form, but when it is ground into a fine powder or dust, it will become flammable. In fact, silver is a fairly unreactive element.
Let’s take a look at why its flammability changes in powder form and some other properties of silver. Here’s what you need to know.
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Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
Table of Contents
- What Is Silver?
- Is Silver Flammable?
- Why Is Silver Hazardous?
- Can Silver Detect Poison?
- Is Silver An Antibacterial?
- Does Silver React With Milk?
- Does Silver Absorb Energy?
What Is Silver?
Silver was one of only seven metals known to humans before the 13th century A.D. and is thus, inextricably linked to the history of the human race and it has great significance in many different cultures.
It can be found in its pure form in nature, though oddly, there is less pure silver in the earth than there is pure gold but is mainly found in ores which can be refined.
It was a basis for many currencies and has been stored in bullion bars and coins too as trading material.
Silver has been used in many different applications due to its specific electrochemical properties and relatively low cost, including electrical systems, as a chemical catalyst, in compounds for photography (both film and its developing agents), as a disinfectant, a microbicide, and in solar panels and water filtration too.
Also read: Is Magnesium Flammable? Extreme Metal Fires
Is Silver Flammable?
Silver is a very unreactive metal and in its natural state in solid form, it is not at all flammable nor is it considered to be combustible.
In fact, you can also pour acid over silver or leave it in water, and it won’t react with them easily, either.
Over long periods of time, it will oxidize (tarnish) but in most instances, it simply doesn’t react with anything at low temperatures.
The exception to this is silver dust, which is flammable and can be an explosion hazard, this is a property of many dusts/powders of otherwise non-flammable materials.
If working with silver dust, it is important to keep away from sources of naked flames or electrical sparks and ensure adequate ventilation.
Also read: Is Gold Flammable? Surprising Answer…
How Does Silver React To Fire?
As a metal, silver is a thermal conductor and when heated the heat flows evenly through the metal to deliver a constant temperature.
It doesn’t react with the air even when it is hot enough to glow red and it will melt and then boil before it burns.
Given silver’s high boiling point, this is unlikely to be a major concern when storing or caring for large quantities of solid silver.
At What Temperature Does Silver Melt?
Silver has a fairly high melting point of 1,763 degrees Fahrenheit or 961.8 degrees Celsius.
This means that silver will melt in some house fires or office fires but otherwise, you’re not likely to accidentally melt some silver by leaving it on top of your stove.
At What Temperature Does It Boil?
Silver boils, on the other hand, at a whopping 3,924 degrees Fahrenheit or 2,162 degrees Celsius.
That’s very hot, indeed, and while silver might melt in a house fire, it’s not likely to boil off.
Why Is Silver Hazardous?
As a solid, at room temperature, silver is not in the remotest bit hazardous (well, unless you were to collect a very large lump of silver and then drop it on someone’s head, but everything is hazardous if you approach it like this).
Its lack of reactivity, combined with the fact that our bodies don’t interact with silver very much means that you are unlikely to be poisoned or otherwise harmed by silver solid.
In powdered form though, silver becomes more hazardous and in addition to being an explosion risk, it can become problematic.
It is also potentially poisonous in soluble salts and as little as 2g of silver salts can result in death if consumed.
Potential issues caused by silver include:
- Eye injuries. Silver can destroy the cornea in sufficient quantity.
- Skin irritation. Over time it may also cause allergic dermatitis.
- Respiratory irritation. This includes breathing problems, headaches and dizziness.
And in very high quantities, indeed – it can make you drowsy, stagger, become confused, knock you out, put you in a coma, or kill you.
It can also cause severe damage to all organs of the body according to laboratory research.
And if ingested, you may vomit, become nauseous, have diarrhea, and even narcosis.
In short, while solid silver is perfectly safe, the dust and compounds are not and need to be treated as potential threats to your health.
How Does It Affect The Body?
In small quantities, silver doesn’t affect our bodies at all but like most metals that our bodies don’t need, our bodies don’t process silver either.
That means if you take silver over time, it will build up in your body and if it builds up enough, it causes argyria this is a blue-grey discoloration of your eyes, skin, organs, gums, and nails.
You cannot reverse or treat argyria either, it’s a permanent change in the body.
Is It Bad For Babies?
There is no evidence to say whether silver is good or bad for babies, but this means that if you’re thinking of taking colloidal silver as a nursing mother that it’s best not to take the silver and breastfeed at the same time.
An absence of evidence indicates a lack of research not an endorsement of feeding babies silver.
Can Silver Detect Poison?
This may sound like a silly question at first, but, in fact, there’s some truth in this.
While silver is not a particularly reactive metal, it does react with compounds that contain sulfur and there is a poison that tends to contain sulfides – arsenic.
In the modern era, arsenic poisoning is very rare in Western countries, though in places such as Cambodia it can come up in the water table and there are over 10,000 cases of arsenic poisoning each year in the small Southeast Asian nation.
But in yesteryear, arsenic was a popular choice for poisoning people’s enemies and by adding silver to a drink or food, it was possible to look for signs of arsenic before being poisoned.
Is Silver An Antibacterial?
Silver is, apparently, a very good antibacterial agent, which probably explains the popularity of silver tableware in years gone by.
In fact, the electronic structure of silver appears to lend itself not just to kill bacteria but also to eliminating fungal spores and even some viruses.
We don’t think that this means it would be a good idea to line your mask with silver to prevent Covid, mind you, the odds are you’d find it hard to breathe through silver.
Does Silver React With Milk?
Silver does not react with milk but interestingly, thanks to the antibacterial properties of silver, there is an old wive’s prescription for using silver with milk when storing it.
They said that if you popped a silver coin into the jug when putting it away it would keep the bacteria away and Steve Barwick found it to be true! Check it out:
It’s important to remember that if you intend to use this trick that you must use solid silver, don’t add silver powder or compounds to the milk or you could poison yourself.
Does Silver Absorb Energy?
This question only has meaning in conjunction with folk remedies associated with the “hot energies” of the body.
Folklore says that silver is good for absorbing such energies along with tin and iron.
We’d note that there is no evidence such energies exist and that if you’re not well, it might be a good idea to talk to a doctor rather than relying on a piece of silver to make you better.