Many people have curtailed their use of credit cards. And studies indicate it may be years, if ever, before people again use credit cards as freely as they did just a few years back.
However, credit cards may be 'healthier' to use than we appreciated—mainly because U.S. greenbacks are a lot more soiled than most of us realized.
Based on recently published studies of one dollar bills, the following contaminants, germs, and bacteria were found*:
• Staphylococcus aureus was found on 42 percent of the notes; this can cause infection and disease.
• Rhinovirus, which is responsible for about one-third of all colds, was found on virtually all currency.
• Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical, was noted on more than half of the bills tested.
• E. coli was found on 7 percent of the bills.
• Thirty percent contained fecal matter.
• A 'whopping,' as one report described it, 92 percent had traces of cocaine, which bonds to the green dye on the bills.
'Unlike germs and bacteria on surfaces, most germs die fairly quickly on dollar bills,' says Matt Morrison, Marketing Manager for Kaivac, Inc., developers of the No-Touch Cleaning® system. 'However, if moisture is present [on the bills], the germs can live a couple of weeks, potentially causing cross contamination.'
Credit cards tend to be less contaminated, according to the studies, because they are handled by far fewer people.
'But before rushing out and using plastic again,' advises Morrison, 'people can protect themselves by washing their hands more frequently. Just as more hygienic cleaning can help stop the spread of disease, more frequent hand washing can help prevent cross contamination.'
*The number of dollar bills tested ranged from about 22 to more than 100 depending on the study. The following was among the sources used for this report: Angela Haupt, 'Health Buzz: Paper Money Contaminated with BPA,' US News and World Report, Dec 10, 2010.