The Los Angeles Times reports on a study by the American Chemical Society, which surveyed paper currency around the country. A whopping 90% of the money sampled had some trace of cocaine.
The study is quick to point out that the amount of the drug on most of the bills was minute, so they were probably not used for actual snorting or in an actual drug deal. They probably became contaminated during the automated bill-counting process at banks, so there is little risk in handling money.
As expected, the contamination was worse in big cities. Nearly 100% of the bills in Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, Boston, Orlando and Baltimore were tainted. Washington, D.C. clocked in at 95%.
The study also looked at money in Canada, Brazil, China and Japan. Canada was at around 85% and Brazil 80%. Cocaine is apparently not such a big deal in Asia -- just 20% of money in China and 12% in Japan were tainted.
The head of the study, Yuegang Zuo, of the University of Massachusetts, was surprised at the high rate of cocaine tainting. He conducted a similar study two years ago and found a U.S. rate of 67%. Zuo speculated that the increased presence of cocaine was tied to difficult economic times, with more people experiencing stress and turning to drugs.