This gives a whole new meaning to the term “dirty money.”
Forget library books, toilet seats, and public doorknobs—they’re no competition for the cash sitting in your wallet right now. Yep, a new study has just confirmed your worst fears: Paper money harbors thousands of germs and other microorganisms, picked up from nearly everything it’s ever touched.
To collect data for their study, a team of researchers swabbed dozens of $1 bills collected from New York City banks for one year. Their results, published in the journal PLOS One, found hundreds of microorganism species hiding in the bills’ fibers. While most came from the human body—including skin bacteria, oral bacteria, and even vaginal bacteria—some non-human DNA from pets or indoor fungi was also present. Bad news: germs are hiding in these spots in your home, as well.
“A lot of people aren’t washing their hands, and they’re at a restaurant and money is going back and forth,” Susan Whittier, a microbiologist at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, told TIME. “You don’t know who’s touched it.”
As for your recent acne breakout, you can blame that on your cash, too. The bacteria that causes acne were the most common microorganisms detected in the study. Bottom line? You might want to wash your hands after paying cash for that breakfast sandwich.
If you think you’re grossed out now, just wait until you hear this. American paper currency is made up of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen, which allows gag-worthy viruses to thrive. The flu can live on paper money for 10 days or more, and research has also found E. coli and salmonella on paper bills, Mental Floss reports. Using plastic for your next payment is looking better and better.
By the way, there are plenty of germ-ridden spots in your hotel room, too. New research recommends that you should never, ever use the hotel hair dryer or take a bath in a hotel tub. You’re welcome.