The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article on dirty money. Not the type of dirty money being obtained unlawfully or immorally but germ-ridden cash that millions of us handle every day.
The article, “Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” reported on the first across-the-board analysis of the DNA on dollar bills. Researchers from New York University’s Dirty Money Project identified 3,000 types of bacteria on them – many times more than were found in previous microscope-based studies.
Jane Carlton, director of genomic sequencing at NYU’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, was shocked herself: “It was quite amazing to us. We actually found that microbes grow on money.”
Here are some examples of what scientists in this most recent NYU study found, and keep in mind that they “could identify only about 20 percent of the non-human DNA they found because so many microorganisms haven’t yet been cataloged in genetic data banks.”
Eighty $1 bills randomly obtained from a bank in New York yielded about 1.2 billion DNA pieces.
The Journal reported: “About half of it was human. The researchers found bacteria, viruses, fungi and plant pathogens. They saw extremely minute traces of anthrax and diphtheria. They identified DNA from horses and dogs – even a snippet or two of white rhino DNA.”
It added: “Easily the most abundant species they found is one that causes acne. Others were linked to gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning and staph infections. … Some carried genes responsible for antibiotic resistance.”
And to add insult to injury, consider that cocaine is currency’s “most common contaminate” in the U.S., based upon a 2009 University of Massachusetts Dartmouth study that said traces of it can be found on up to 90 percent of paper money circulating in America. Shocker?!
If you think moving abroad is the answer to escaping these microbes, consider that research on European currency conducted by a team of scientists from Oxford University revealed that an average piece of money could harbor a staggering 26,000 bacteria. And a study conducted at the University Hospitals of Geneva found that certain flu virus cells could last for up to 17 days on bills.
That’s why in a recent series of columns, “6 Places You’re Most Likely to Get Sick,” I noted how the bank rivals public bathrooms in terms of the myriad bacteria there. University of Arizona researchers also found that each key on an ATM keyboard harbors an average of 1,200 germs, including E. coli and cold and flu viruses. (Those numbers make one wonder how much is really being deposited and withdrawn from banks!)I find this quite interesting. Perhaps the best means of preventing the spread of germs might be to make everyone poor, to prevent people from getting their hands on money, or by going to an all electronic money system.
This is certainly an incentive to wash your hands after handling money. What do you think?