Professor of Chemistry and BioChemistry at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Yuegang Zuo, headed up a research study that found that 90% of all monetary paper bills that are currently being circulated around the US, tested positive for trace amounts of cocaine.
"When I was a young kid, my mom told me the dirtiest thing in the world is money," he said. "Mom is always right."
Although the research indicates that the amount of cocaine that is found on the paper bills is not large enough that it would cause immediate health risks, it is still a cause of concern.
The amount of paper bills that actually contained cocaine proves that cocaine use is still a major problem in the major cities of the USA. Paper bills can easily become contaminated with cocaine when a drug user snorts using the bill or when the money is being used to purchase the drug.
Ironically, a paper bill does not necessarily have to be used as part of a drug use, to become contaminated with cocaine. Paper bills that do carry trace elements of cocaine can contaminate other bills whilst being housed together in a person's wallet or even inside a currency counting machine at a bank.
Professor Zuo explains: "When the machine gets contaminated, it transfers the cocaine to the other bank notes."
As can be expected, these paper bills usually have smaller amounts of cocaine on them. In fact, a few of the paper bills utilized in Professor Zuo's research actually contained .006 micrograms of cocaine. This amount is several thousand times smaller than one little grain of sand.
During the American Chemical Society's annual meeting last week, Professor Zuo stated that those bills that were more likely to contain cocaine were $5, $10, $20 and $50 bills. Most of the $1 bills tested, did not contain cocaine.
Professor Zuo explained:
"Probably $1 is a little too less to purchase cocaine. I don't know exactly. It's an educated guess."
Professor Zuo's recent research has simply re-emphasized what health agencies have been touting for many years by advising citizens to immediately wash their hands with anti-bacterial soap after handling, cold, hard, cash for sanitary reasons.
Besides trace elements of cocaine and other drugs, organisms that are widely known to cause a variety of illnesses and diseases, such as staphylococcus aureus as well as pneumonia-causing bacteria, have also been discovered in paper bills.
The Southern Medical Journal published a study in 2002, stating that nearly 94% of papers bills that were tested contained disease-causing organisms.
However, an associate professor of forensic sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Adam Negrusz, believes that there is no real cause of alarm regarding the unclean state of monetary affairs.
"I never think about this as a source of danger. We have more things which can be potentially harmful," said Negrusz, explaining that cocaine binds to the green dye on the paper bills.
Negrusz is concerned that the cocaine tainted money could cause a false positive drug test, especially involving a policeman or bank teller who regularly handles such cocaine contaminated money.
Negruzs explained further:
"Imagine a bank teller who's working with cash-counting machine in the basement of the bank. Many of those bills, over 90 percent, are contaminated with cocaine. There is cocaine dust around the machines. These bank tellers breathe in cocaine. Cocaine gets into the system, and you can test positive for cocaine. That's what's behind this whole thing that triggered testing money for drugs."
Professor Zuo is hoping to use his research to form a regional drug use map, as the amount of cocaine contaminated bills varied greatly according to the area in which it was found.
For example, 100% of all bills that came from Miami, Florida; Boston, Massachusetts; and Detroit, Michigan, all tested positive for cocaine; whereas 87% to 67% of paper bills originating from Salt Lake City, Utah; Niagara Falls, New York; and Dearborn, Michigan, contained cocaine.
When compared with monetary bills from Canada, China, Japan and Brazil, the bills from the USA contained the highest amount of cocaine with an average of 90% out of 234 US bank notes contaminated.
Canada followed suit with 85% and next with 80% was Brazil. China had 20% and Japan had the lowest amount of cocaine contaminated money with only 12%.
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