Paper Money Contaminated by More Than BPA


It appears that water bottles and food cans are not the only places you can find the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). A new study warns that paper money may be contaminated with the substance as well. But the money in your wallet may be harboring more than BPA.

Dollar bills can carry BPA, cocaine, and bacteria

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which released its report “On the Money: BPA on Dollar Bills and Receipts,” warns that its investigators found BPA on 95 percent of the paper money it tested; that is, 21 of 22 samples. One source of BPA on money is the thermal receipts that are often handed to consumers with their change.

Although about half of the thermal paper in the United States contains BPA, Appleton Paper, which makes much of the receipt paper, has switched from using BPA to bisphenol sulfonate (BPS), which is chemically closely related to BPA. The Safer Chemicals report notes that while BPS has not been studied as well as BPA, “in vitro studies indicate it may also disrupt hormones.” Other studies have indicated that BPA is associated with male fertility problems and male sexual function, asthma in children, and heart problems.

Accoding to Erika Schreder, staff scientist at the Washington Toxics Coalition and the lead author of the report, “Our findings demonstrate that BPA cannot be avoided, even by the most conscious consumer.”


Money can also be contaminated by bacteria. In a recent study reported in the Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), investigators with the newspaper collected paper money and coins from local businesses and had them tested at a lab at the University of Florida College of Medicine at Jacksonville.

Yvette McCarter, professor of pathology, reported that she found Bacillus and Corynebacterium species, both of which are commonly found on the skin and rarely a problem for humans; and Staphylococcus coagulase-negative, also commonly found on the skin, and which has a higher probability of causing a staph infection.

A previous experiment conducted in 2001 in Dayton, Ohio, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center examined 68 old, worn dollar bills from a grocery store and sporting event. The investigators found five bills with bacteria that can cause infections like flu in healthy people, 59 were contaminated with bacteria that can cause serious illnesses in people who have a weakened immune system, and four were fairly germ-free.

You may also be hiding illegal drugs in your wallet. A study presented in August 2009 at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting reported that up to 90 pecent of American paper money is contaminated with cocaine. The study’s authors noted that as much as 1,200 micrograms of coke (about the size of 50 grains of sand) was found on some bills, although most money had much less.

What can consumers do? Washing your hands after handling money is one suggestion. If you want to help ban the use of BPA, you can contact your elected officials about two bills that would ban some of the worst chemicals, study the risks of chemicals and promote better regulation in consumer products. The bills are US Senate’s Safe Chemicals Act (S 3209) and the House’s Toxic Chemicals Safety Act (H.R. 5820).

Florida Times-Union
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families