ICYMI: California has a problem with dirty money.

If sounds like a cheeky lead on a political talking point, it's not. Multiple studies over the last 30 years show California's paper currency is contaminated with an array of disturbing substances.

In 1994, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found an alarming one out of every four banknotes circulating Los Angeles contained traces of cocaine.

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash // Canva
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash // Canva

What's in your wallet?

Given the facts, probably coke 😳

In 2009, CNN reported 90% of U.S. banknotes examined by the American Chemical Society tested positive for cocaine while banknotes in major cities such as L.A., Detroit, Boston, and Orlando came back 100% positive for the drug.

If you're wondering how that's possible, follow the data. Stats compiled by Statista in 2021 showed cocaine was the second most-abused illicit drug in America, with marijuana coming in first.

That same year, research showed just over 40 million Americans had experimented with cocaine at least once in their lives and an estimated 4.8 million had used cocaine within the last year.

Check out the state-by-state percentages in the chart below.

Statistic: Percentage of U.S. adults that used cocaine within the past year in 2021, by state | Statista

How is so much money contaminated with cocaine?

From California to Vermont, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cocaine residue find its way to paper money a few different ways.

 Cocaine is often snorted up the nose through rolled‐up bills. Sorting machines in financial institutions may also cause cross‐contamination, with an average detected value of 2.67 ng per note. -NIH

The same study revealed 100% of $5, $10, $20, and $50 bills dispensed from ATM's tested positive for up to .006 micrograms of coke. NIH also determined banknotes from hospitals and supermarkets also tested positive for staphylococcus aureus, the salmonella species, and e-coli.

Unfortunately, there's no way to completely disinfect paper or coin currency. The good news is the microbes found on money probably won't make Californians sick, especially if they wash their hands with hot, soapy water regularly.

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