The real life “blue man” has died. Paul Karason, who was known for his permanently blue skin, passed away on Monday at a hospital in Washington.
Karason shot to fame after he appeared on the Today Show in 2009 to discuss his skin color, which turned blue about 15 years ago when he took colloidal silver for a bad case of dermatitis.
Sometimes called “Papa Smurf” by passersby, Today reports that Karason lived a secluded life with his wife, Jo Anna Karasan, until he came forward in 2008.
His condition, called argyria, is caused by the use of dietary supplements. In this case, it was caused by the self-prepared colloidal silver he took.
The substance, which is created using electrolysis to suspend silver in a liquid, was a common antibiotic-like substance used for thousands of years. However, it went out of use when penicillin was discovered in the 1930s.
The FDA eventually banned the use of colloidal silver in 1998 because it causes argyia, though that didn’t stop the blue man from using it. Paul Karason’s cause of death wasn’t immediately known, though he wasn’t healthy before he entered the hospital last week.
Karason suffered from heart problems and underwent triple bypass surgery five years ago, notes Fox News. He also suffered a stroke and severe pneumonia in the weeks before his death. He entered the hospital last week after suffering a heart attack.
The blue man’s widow noted that some people called him “Papa Smurf” because of his skin color, which appeared gradually because of the silver in his system, and his white hair and full beard. The nickname wasn’t one he appreciated — unless it came from a child.
Karason’s widow explained, “If it was a kid who ran up to him saying ‘Papa Smurf,’ it would put a smile on his face. But if it was an adult, well… ” She added that her estranged husband was too ill to work for a while before his death. He spent his last few years reading books and watching the History Channel.