Cocaine — and Other Unsavory Substances — Lurking on Your Cash

Photo by Martin Prague /

The late, great comedian and actor Robin Williams once said, “Cocaine is God’s way of saying you’re making too much money.”

If that’s the case, a lot of folks are raking in too much cash these days. Traces of cocaine are found on nearly 80 percent of dollar bills, The Conversation reports, citing scientific studies.

Not a fan of cocaine? Not to worry. Several other illicit substances linger on our banknotes, although not as commonly as cocaine. Germs and DNA are also in circulation.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise, considering the range of bacteria that have been found to coat airplane tray tables and rental-car steering wheels and shifters.

Still, the array of uninvited hitchhikers riding our hard-earned cash is impressive. Studies show these clingers include:

  • Drugs: In addition to cocaine, drugs found on our cash include heroin, methamphetamine, amphetamine and morphine.
  • Bacteria: More than 100 strains have been found on dollar bills in New York City alone. They often include the acne-causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes and Streptococcus oralis, bacteria found in our mouths. The dreaded infection-causing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, has been found on banknotes in the U.S. and Canada. Foodborne illness-causing strains like salmonella and E. coli can survive on both coins and ATM machines.
  • DNA: Traces from both humans and pets have been found in circulation. The DNA left behind on ATMs has even shown researchers how diets vary among residents of different New York neighborhoods. For example, folks in Harlem have a heftier hankering for chicken than folks in Flushing or Chinatown, where fish and mollusks are preferred.

Before you freak out, know that no major disease outbreak has been traced back to ATMs, and monetarily transmitted disease is rare, according to The Conversation’s report.

Just consider this news a reminder to wash your hands more often. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe hand-washing as a “do-it-yourself vaccine” that can save your life. The federal agency explains:

“Regular hand-washing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.”

To learn more about avoiding potentially deadly or infectious germs at home and on the go this summer, check out:

What do you make of all the hitchhikers hanging on your cash? Sound off below or on Facebook.

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