How Dirty Is Your Money?

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When you think of bacteria, especially the kind that can make you sick, you think you know the places where germs are hiding.

"Toilets, sinks," said Renee Anderson, local resident.

"Obviously trash cans, bathrooms, hospitals," said Terry Davis, local resident.

"The bathroom, the kitchen, the laundry room," said Vicki Goodman, local resident.

"Bathroom," said Frank Buell.

But most people don't think of cold hard cash. Sure you wash your hands before a meal and you lather up after a trip to the restroom, but you probably don't wash up after handling money.

"I guess it's better to, but no I don't," said Anderson.

"Actually no, well sometimes but usually because I have some other reason to wash my hands," said Goodman.

Think about this for a second. As money passes from one hand to another and one wallet to another, it spends time pressed against other bills or folded in pockets, then it's spent and off again.

You hand a dollar to a drive thru cashier, they hand it to someone else, who hands it to someone else and so on. There's no telling what's ended up on the money in your wallet.

Robert Kirk is the director of the lab at the College Station Medical Center. He spends the day testing all kinds of specimens for bacteria.

"The lab functions as an analytical service to help diagnose peoples problems and their diseases. We primarily do testing on blood and other body fluids as well as tissue," said Robert Kirk, College Station Medical Center.

In this case, his specimen is money. Kirk agreed to work with News 3 to determine just how dirty money really is.

Samples were taken from each note by rubbing the bill with a moistened cotton swab, each sample was then stored in a sterile container and taken to The Med.

"We will take it into the microbiology department then we will incubate it for up to 72 hours to see if anything grows," said Kirk.

The money was collected randomly from public places in the Brazos Valley and the germs we find may surprise you.

"As the money changes hands from person to person, that could be indicators that perhaps their might be more diseases out there being passed around than we know about," said Kirk.

And that's probably the case. There are a lot of dirty bills out there. But just how dirty and are they so dirty they can make you sick?

Find out in part two of our report, Dirty Money.