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The True Health Cost of a Dollar Bill

By Chris Brown

Amongst the psychological and emotional traps of a cash-focused life, there is a more straightforward reason why your money may be secretly out to hurt you. Hard currencies are circulated through hundreds of hands over the course of their existence, leading to opportunities for disease-causing pathogens to hitch a ride and infect you. Becoming educated about just how dirty money is may inspire some small, but important, changes to your daily spending habits.

How Dirty Is U.S. Cash?

United States dollar bills are among the most pathogen-attractive worldwide currencies. The U.S. dollar's high cotton makeup offers microbes a perfect, soft surface to land and accumulate. And with an average four- to 15-year circulation period, there is plenty of time for germs to find their way to cash. In fact, one study by the U.S. Air Force discovered that a whopping 94 percent of tested dollar bills contained pathogens. Pathogens which included pneumonia causing bacteria and antibiotic resistant strep.

Outside of extreme illness, the bacteria on cash could also be messing with your looks. A different study, this time in New York City, found that the most abundant bacteria on bills was a species that caused acne. Therefore, unknowingly touching your face after handling cash could be the cause behind those mystery breakouts.

There is good news about the pathogen exposure from U.S. currency. While attractive to all sorts of nasty microbes, many microbes on cash are harmless and the cotton-linen composition also may keep some of it off your hands. The porous surface that makes a dollar bill so tempting for pathogens to attach also reduces their ability to release to a secondary surface. That is not to say, however, that cash isn't making you sick, since only a few bad bacteria are needed to start an infection.      

Protecting Yourself From Dirty Cash

There are a few methods to minimize your daily risk from cash.

  • Avoid cash altogether by sticking to card transactions
  • Wash hands regularly and use hand sanitizer (especially before eating or touching your face)
  • Wear disposable gloves when handling large amounts of cash
  • Although its effectiveness is debated, heavy UV exposure may work in disinfecting money if you are meticulous enough to purchase a machine and process each bill that enters your possession

Ultimately, the world outside is full of germs and pathogens, including our money. Being aware of the level of dirtiness is the first step to avoiding unnecessary exposure. Washing one's hands regularly, particularly before eating, is a simple protective measure which seems much more practical than avoiding cash transactions completely.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

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