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What’s In Your Wallet? (You Don’t Want to Know)

April 24th, 2014

Suddenly doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Photo credit: Big Stock Photo

Most of us know to wash our hands after touching door knobs, playing with pets, and (hopefully) after going to the bathroom  (please say you do :)) …. but how much have you thought about what’s on the money we pass around all the time, all over town … even across the country and around the world?

Where’s that money been? Who’s been touching it? And what else is hitching a ride on there?

The Dirty Money Project out of New York University recently analyzed what’s on our paper money … and it turns out there are a few other things on there besides George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

About 3,000 things, actually.  On each bill. Happily alive microbes having a party on your money.

The researchers took a look at around eighty $1 bills in New York City. Jane Carlton, the lead researcher on the project said, “We actually found that microbes grow on money.”  Read: You’ve got your own personal science experiment going on in your wallet.

The researchers found bacteria, viruses, fungi and plant pathogens. They even found tiny amounts of diphtheria (a disease we’re vaccinated against and is extremely rare in the U.S. and Europe).

An acne-causing germ was the most commonly found on money.

Then there were those linked to pneumonia, food poisoning, stomach ulcers, staph infections, and antibiotic resistant infections. Ewww.

And, of course, there was proof that not everyone washes their hands after using the bathroom …

There were 1.2 billion DNA segments found. About half of it was human, according to The Wall Street Journal , the paper that first reported this story.

The rest included DNA from dogs, horses and even … white rhino?!

The good news is that much of what they found is either harmless bacteria or even protects us.

Dr. Carlton told NPR : “We’re not trying to be fear mongers, or suggest that everyone goes out and microwave their money … But I must admit that some of the $1 bills in New York City are really nasty.”

Hand sanitizer, anyone?

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