Money Not As Dirty As You Think?

Posted on 18. Jul, 2006 by in News

dirtymoney.jpgDidn’t you mom ever tell you not to put pennies in your mouth because you never knew where those pennies had been? No? Maybe that was just me then…

In any case, researchers from Australia have found there are generally few pathogenic bacteria on banknotes and coins. The researchers analysed coins and banknotes from mainly small food outlets such as cafes, small supermarkets and shops like butchers and bakers, all places where the person who handles food is also likely to handle money.

Back in the laboratory, the researchers bombarded the coins with pulses of sound to dislodge any microbes on the surface. They then identified and counted the number of viable bacteria. The banknotes needed a different approach. They were placed in a device like a mini-washing machine that beats and swirls the notes in a special liquid. The scientists then analysed the liquid for microbes.

The researchers found few bacteria on the coins, typically 1 or 2 cells per square centimetre. However, with the paper money the counts were higher, typically 10 cells per square centimetre and varied much more between samples.

Although the researchers found a range of organisms on coins and notes, including those that cause food poisoning or diarrhoea, they concluded that the levels are low enough that we shouldn’t worry about it. These included low levels of coliforms such as Escherichia coli, bacteria typically associated with the colon and generally linked with poor hygiene; Staphylococcus aureus, a common organism with some strains that can cause disease in susceptible people; and Bacillus cereus, which causes food poisoning if cooking does not kill its tough spores.

If you ask me, finding food poisoning on my money is disturbing irregardless of the amount. Add to that the “surprising” discovery of solmonella bacteria that researchers found and it looks like money is a cesspool for germs. Also surprising was the number of bacteria that were resistant to one or more commonly prescribed antibiotics, like amoxycillin, roxithromycin and cefaclor.
But what surprised the researchers was evidence of salmonella bacteria!

However, after all of these findings the researchers claim that the levels are low enough that we shouldn’t worry. My take on this? Stop putting pennies in your mouth…

4 Responses to “Money Not As Dirty As You Think?”

  1. Kira

    18. Jul, 2006

    The reason they are not concerned about that level of bacteria is because of what is known as the minimum infectious dose – because even if you took a bill and licked it, you would need to ingest a certain number of bacteria in order to get sick. Your body has so many mechanisms to physically remove and chemically destroy bacteria that it really takes quite a lot. And you already possess antibodies against most of these bacteria since they are very common. Barring that, most bacteria that cause disease cannot live outside the body for very long, and are easily destroyed by UV light. So if you’re concerned, leave your money in the sun for a few minutes each day and it’ll pretty much be sterile.

    I think the reason your mom told you not to put pennies in your mouth was because you might swallow them. =P

  2. mapgirl

    18. Jul, 2006

    There’s a rumor that sucking on pennies invalidates a breathalyzer test. I wouldn’t know, but I heard this often from people in high school.

    Paper money stinks to high heaven! So even if there’s no infectious level, it’s still nasty. I prefer my currency electronically in 1’s and 0’s. Preferably lots of zeros! 😉

  3. Jason Guthrie

    18. Jul, 2006

    Thanks for the clarification Kira. I must have missed that part. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why the researchers weren’t worried… but now I know. I guess I can go back to licking my money again 🙂 Thanks!

  4. Larry Stone

    19. Jul, 2006

    How about all the money not spent on testing or stopping Rodent Infested meat shipped nationally – including schools!

    There is an ALARMING food contamination issue that is being covered-up by the state of Florida and the USDA. I want to bring this issue to the attention of your readers. What if I told you there was a meat production plant that was infested with RATS and RAT FECAL MATTER & URINE had contaminated millions of pounds of meat products that the plant produced annually. This meat may still be in distribution and in freezers waiting to be consumed as it was never subject to a recall.

    Also they used a CAT as one form of pest control in its warehouse, and CAT FECAL MATTER was also found in the meat production area. These meat products were shipped across the United States to elementary schools, national supermarket chains and hospitals nationwide. The Centers For Disease Control “CDC” has recently released reports stating that RODENT FECAL MATTER/URINE can cause up to six diseases in humans. CAT FECAL MATTER contains a parasite that causes serious birth defects.

    We invite you to check out our blog at and see the evidence for yourself, with shocking pictures of the contamination of these meat products. Also posted are letters from government officials covering this issue? We invite you to read all the information, draw your own conclusions and post your comments. If this moves you gross negligence, please tell a friend and/or loved one about our mission.

    Thank You,
    Larry M. Stone

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