Aug. 18, 2008— -- For 40 years, Paul Karason of Oregon was fair-skinned, with freckles and reddish-blond hair.
Like most people who grow older, Karason's hair turned white. But that's not all that changed color. His skin is now a bright shade of blue.
Karason said he hadn't even realized it until an old friend came to visit.
"And he looks at me and he says, 'What have you got on your face?' 'I don't have anything on my face!'" Karason said. "He says, 'Well, it looks like you've got camouflage makeup on or something.' And by golly, he came in and he was very fair-skinned, as I used to be. And that's when it hit me.
Karason's blue skin is the result of a rare medical syndrome known as argyria, or silver poisoning. He began using silver as a form of alternative medicine, not realizing what might happen to his skin.
It started a decade ago, when he saw an ad in a new-age magazine promising health and rejuvenation through colloidal silver.
"It was a daisy in a glass of water," he remembered. "The story was that the daisy had been desiccated before it was put back in the water. And [now] it looked like a fresh-picked daisy."
Karason sent away for a kit for making colloidal silver -- a home brew of microscopic silver particles suspended in water. For a while, he was drinking at least 10 ounces a day.
In those first months, he didn't notice a change in his skin color. But there were changes in his health.
"The acid reflux problem I'd been having just went away completely," he said. "I had arthritis in my shoulders so bad I couldn't pull a T-shirt off. And the next thing I knew, it was just gone."
As for whether it was the colloidal silver that had cured him, Karason said, "there's not the slightest doubt in my mind."
But there is plenty of doubt among mainstream doctors. These claims, they say, have no basis in science.
"Do you ever feel comfortable like going out to places and knowing that they're talking about you?"
"Are people scared of you when they see you?"
"How long does it take for you to turn blue?"
"If there was a cure for you would you wanna take it and go back or stay blue?"
Even this one: "So say I wanted to put that stuff on my face, I could turn blue?"
Karason's answer to that last question? "It's not something I would recommend you do. But that's what happened to me."
But even as he cautions those 12-year-olds not to do what he did, it might shock you to learn that he hasn't give up the habit himself. He says he drinks colloidal silver about once a month, still believing it has health benefits.
And though Karason claims to have made peace with his argyria, he's recently been using an ionic foot-bath, a totally unproven treatment that promises to rid him of his discoloration.
And if there was a proven treatment that he knew would work, Karason says he might or might not take it.
"I mean, once you turn blue, you sort of resign yourself to being different," he said.
Ironically, his favorite color used to be blue; he says that preference changed along with his skin.
For more information about argyria, click here.