Paul Karason, the man with blue skin and white beard, died this week. He was 62.
Karason was being treated for pneumonia at the time of his death, and had also recently suffered a heart attack and a stroke, according to a report on Today.com.
The world was first introduced to Karason and his blue-gray skin in 2008, when he went on the “Today” show to discuss his condition, known as argyria.
At that time, the man who came to be known by many as a real-life Papa Smurf said he had been living with blue skin for at least 10 years.
Argyria is caused by the build-up of a silver compound in the skin and other body tissues. When that compound is exposed to light, it turns blue.
Most of us ingest small amounts of silver in our daily lives -- it occurs naturally in our water and our soil. But Karason had been deliberately upping his silver intake for more than a decade.
He told “Today” show host Matt Lauer that he first drank colloidal silver -- a suspension of silver particles in a liquid base -- to help with an outbreak of dermatitis on his face. The colloidal silver did not stop the dermatitis, but it did help alleviate his acid reflux and arthritis, he said.
About one year after Karason’s media debut, he returned to the studio to give Lauer an update on his life. He said that he had greatly reduced his colloidal silver intake, but he still looked as blue as ever.
That’s because argyria is permanent.
However, it is unlikely that argyria played a role in Karason’s death. According to a report on the CDC’s website, argyria is thought to be only a “cosmetic” problem.
“Most doctors and scientists believe that the discoloration of the skin seen in argyria is the most serious health effect of silver,” according to the report.
Rosemary Jacobs, a woman in her early 70s who also suffers from argyria and has put together a website about her experience, said she does not believe that it has affected her own health, or the health of others who have it.
“I myself know several people with the condition and have read practically all of the med lit in English on it,” she wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times. “All that indicates that argyric people have the same average life spans as everyone else and that we suffer from the same diseases as everyone else. On average we aren’t healthier or less healthy than the general population, and there isn’t any disease or condition that stands out as being more prevalent among us than among others."