D.C. germophobes may have something worse to worry about than swine flu on their dollar bills -- like cocaine.
That's right. According to findings released this week at an American Chemical Society conference, a whopping 95 percent of paper money sampled in the District was contaminated by cocaine. That ranked highest in the nation, along with Baltimore, Boston and Detroit. Overall, contamination throughout the country is at about 85 percent.
Apparently cocaine users like to roll up $5s, $10s and $20s, but don't like to sniff with $1s or $100s. Granted, the cocaine isn't coming just from people using the cash as a snorting device. It could come from your average, everyday drug deal, too. Drug dealers don't wash their hands? No way...
Whether this means drug use is on the rise or that ATMs and other bulk cash-handling machines -- where one contaminated bill can spread powder to many others -- are ever more ubiquitous cannot be discerned. "It is still difficult to tell quantitatively how much is due to primary contamination, such as during a drug deal or [use], and how much is due to secondary contamination, such as interaction between contaminated and uncontaminated bills," [chemist Yuegang Zuo of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth] says. "Both may contribute ... [but] it seems clear that the banknotes containing 1,240 micrograms of cocaine were used directly during a drug deal or uptake [drug use]."
If you don't want cocaine on your cash, go to Salt Lake City, which had the lowest level of contamination.
The study also found that the U.S. and Canada had the highest levels of cocaine contamination, with an average contamination rate of between 85 and 90 percent, while China and Japan had the lowest, between 12 and 20 percent contamination. The study was the first report about cocaine contamination in Chinese and Japanese currencies, according to the researchers.