Dr. Campbell: Dirty money — microbes are all over your bills!

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — We live in a world of germs. We all know that certain surfaces and locations are dirtier than others. Now scientists warn that your cash may be one of the dirtiest things that you handle all day long.


1. So what exactly is on our money?

You would be amazed but money has been shown in multiple recent studies to contain bacteria, drugs (such as cocaine), as well as DNA. A study published in PLOS One showed that there were over a hundred different strains of bacteria on dollar bills circulating in New York City. They also found traces of DNA from domestic animals and from specific bacteria that are associated only with certain foods. Additionally, in another study, traces of cocaine were found on almost 80 percent of dollar bills. Other drugs, including morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamine, can also be found on bills, though less commonly than cocaine.

2. Can you get sick from the bacteria and drugs found on money?

Disease transmission from money is very rare. The drugs found on the money were in such small concentrations that they would have no effect. U.S. money is still made from a blend of cotton and linen, which has been shown to have higher bacterial growth than plastic polymers. Many other countries have started to move towards plastic (such as Canada) in order to reduce the amount of bacteria on their cash. Thankfully, researchers are actually working ways to clean money between transactions such as putting older bills through a process where they are exposed to gasses such as carbon dioxide at a high temperature—this can strip dollar bills of oils and dirt left behind by human fingers, and can also kill microbes that would otherwise remain.

3. How can you prevent passing on bacteria from your money?

We really don’t know how much disease has been spread from touching bills—but some simple rules that your mother probably taught you can certainly help reduce your risk

• Wash your hands after handling money
• Never put money in your mouth
• Keep money in a separate area of your wallet or purse to avoid contamination of other items

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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