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90% of U.S. currency tainted with cocaine. Which cities are worst?

August 18, 2009 |  5:18 am

President George Washington grabs his white-powdered wig in shock over the high percentage of U.S. currency tainted with cocaine in a new study Just to be safe, you should probably stop sniffing your dollar bills. Especially if you live/work in the nation's capital of politics.

A new -- and strange -- study by the American Chemical Society has just revealed that nine out of 10  pieces -- as in 90% -- of the paper currency sampled around the United States recently contained traces of cocaine -- as in the illegal substance, which binds to the green ink.

Not surprisingly, the money was especially contaminated in bigger, more evil places like Detroit, Boston and Baltimore. Also in Miami, Orlando and good old L.A. All right around 100%. Mostly in $5s, $10s, $20s and $50s.

But get this: The contamination was nearly as bad -- as in 95% -- in Washington, D.C.

Now, we know why their workweeks are so short back there.

According to an ACS news release, the scientists studied banknotes from nearly three dozen cities in five countries -- the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Japan and China. The two North American countries showed the worst contamination, averaging between 85% and 90%. Brazil's was 80%. Toronto's was 88%.

China (20%) and Japan (12%) had the cleanest bills.

The head of the study, Yuegang Zuo, of the University of Massachusetts, expressed surprise at the high rate of cocaine tainting. He conducted a similar study two years ago and found a U.S. rate of "only" 67% then. Even bills not involved in drug deals can become contaminated during the automated bill-counting process in banks.

Zuo speculated that the apparent increased presence of cocaine was tied to difficult economic times, with more people experiencing stress and turning to the illegal drug. He noted that the cocaine detected on the bills was usually a minute amount, presenting no direct health threat, unless it was used in active snorting -- as in rolled up -- or involved in direct proximity to drug deals.

So, with the exception of those bills employed in the snorting process, you probably don't need to worry about being contaminated.

Still, if you ever encounter any drug-sniffing dogs, it's probably best not to offer the canines a monetary tip.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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