Captain Planet/He’s our hero/Gonna get tested for Argyria
…Just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
There’s no better time to reflect on the Captain Planet and the Planeteers cartoon, which ran from 1990-1996, than Earth Day. The show’s arch villain was literally pollution. I know that, as a kid, whenever I watched the Planeteers’ powers combine, I would instantly make sure that all the plastic soda can rings in my home were cut. Poor dolphins.
Captain Planet himself was an amalgam of wind, water, fire, earth, and heart (not an element, Ma-Ti, c’mon), and his physical form obviously represented the planet Earth. Most of his body was blue, and his mullet was famously green. The Earth is mostly covered by water, so it made sense. Either that or, and stay with me here, Captain Planet was contaminated with silver.
Argyria is a medical condition characterized by a surprisingly blue tinge to the skin. It’s a result of a chronic exposure to silver, which can stay in the skin and break down in sunlight, forming dark pigments from the shiny metal. Exposure can be environmental or intentional, as it was in Paul Karason’s case:
Paul Karason wasn’t cosplaying as Papa Smurf; he was treating himself with “colloidal” silver, or elemental silver particles suspended in a liquid, like water. Once a popular topical antibiotic treatment before safer, more effective remedies were developed, colloidal silver is now marketed as an “alternative medicine,” purported to treat everything from skin rashes to AIDS. Scientific evidence doesn’t support any of these claims, but it has shown that purposeful ingestion of silver can cause seizures and kidney damage. And it will turn you blue.
So the best guess for Captain Planet? The part of the Earth he springs from is spiked with acute levels of silver, which migrate to the hero’s skin, break apart in the sunlight, and turn him blue. And his hair? Too much copper. You had one job Kwame!
Kyle Hill is the Science Editor at Nerdist. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.