Have you ever thought about what else you are getting back along with your change?  I’m sure that most of us are more concerned that we are getting the correct change rather than what bacteria and microorganisms that are attached to the money we are handling.  The truth is that 53-100% of the money we pick up is crawling with pathogenic, sometimes drug-resistant bacteria, fungi, and human parasites.  The level of contamination may vary depending on the country, season, environmental conditions, type of material the money is made of, hygiene level of the population, and who has handled the money.  For example, low denomination notes were more likely to be contaminated due to the frequency of use.  

So does it matter if the money is contaminated with micro-organisms?  That depends on three factors:

  • What type of organisms are on the money
  • How long they are able to survive
  • Are they able to be transmitted to people?

Even if organisms not normally associated with sickness in healthy hosts can cause significant infections in an immune-compromised or hospitalized person.  Also, a number of drug-resistant strains of viruses have been found on money as well.  These have the potential to be hard to treat and can spread quickly.  

The survival of organisms depends on the type of organism and its environmental resilience, the type of material the money is made of, and the environmental conditions.  For example, organisms can survive anywhere between six hours to eight days at room temperature.  

Several solutions have been proposed including disinfection via UV light, supersonic or chemical methods, or complete replacement of traditional funds with electronic funds transfers.  Of course, proper hand hygiene after handling money is still the best bet.