Eeeew! It’s Not Just People Who Love Money — Bacteria Do, Too

21 Jan

It shouldn’t cause you to worry about catching the flu. But at the very least, it may make you want to wash your hands every time you go for your wallet.

Dollar bills are loaded with bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

Dollar bills are loaded with bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

A study conducted by a class taught by Elizabeth Lewis Roberts, assistant professor of biology at Southern, showed that dollar bills are chock full of germs – including the presence of fecal coliforms, such as E.coli, the microbe known for causing digestive distress. It also showed an abundance of Penicillium fungi, which is a type of mold that you might see on old bread or other foods.

“We also tested for Salmonella, but the good news is that we didn’t find that type of bacteria on the bills,” Roberts says. “Nevertheless, money is contaminated with microbes. While it shouldn’t come as a surprise, the study reinforced the need for people to wash their hands after touching it. When you think about how many people have touched the money, it only makes sense.”

The research was conducted nearly two years ago and was overseen by Roberts. She says the students studied $1 bills from a bank, a store and one other place. The bills were printed in 2003, 2006 and 2009, and the hypothesis was that the oldest bills would be covered with the most bacteria since they have been in circulation for a longer period of time.

“That turned out to be true, but the majority of fecal coliforms were actually found on the newest bills,” Roberts says. “So, don’t think fresher dollar bills are free from these microbes.”

Nevertheless, Roberts says the results are no reason for panic.

Various studies similarly have shown many bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms live on dollar bills. Yet, their presence on our currency has not created an epidemic, even though it theoretically could do so.

“The truth is we live in a microbial world,” she says. “They are all around us, on us and in us. Touching money covered in microbes is no more harmful than touching anything else. But it should send us a message that we probably need to wash our hands more often than we do, especially after handling money and before eating.”

And, of course, if a wash room is not available, using a hand sanitizer may be the next best thing.

The Wright Patterson Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, produced a study last year that might be of interest. It also shows that microbes are present on dollar bills in abundant numbers.

A study by New York University shows similar findings.

Still love money?

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