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Harmful truth: What happens if you swallow money?  |

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Harmful truth: What happens if you swallow money? 

Kathleen A. Llemit -
Harmful truth: What happens if you swallow money? 
CCTV camera stills showing a lady scree­ning officer eating and swallowing 300 dollar bills, suspected of having been stolen from a Chinese passenger at NAIA Terminal 1

MANILA, Philippines — The viral video of an airport personnel allegedly swallowing US dollar bills made many people think about the other relevant question besides meting out the punishment if proven guilty: What is the health effect of ingesting a paper bill?

To understand how it can cause harm, it is important to know what it is made of and how its circulation can affect the health of a majority of people. 

According to a 2022 article on Alliant, the US paper bill is made of a blend that is 25% linen and 75% cotton. This blend makes the US note difficult to counterfeit and not easy to crumble.

The US Currency Education Program said the currency paper has tiny red and blue synthetic fibers of various lengths evenly distributed throughout the paper. For a banknote to be torn, it would take 4,000 double folds, forwards and backwards.

Carrying dirt around

Paper money goes through countless change of hands, and several countless research have proven how dirty the hands are. Even the Philippines' Department of Health have cautioned against unclean hands in the midst of the pandemic. 

In a 2017 TIME magazine article, it cited a study published in the journal PLOS One. 

Researchers swabbed $1 bills from a New York bank to see what lies on its surface. They found hundreds of species of microorganisms, with the most abundant ones that cause acne and "harmless skin bacteria." The researched also found "vaginal bacteria, microbes from mouths, DNA from pets and viruses."

The article also mentioned about the cash "often streaked with drugs." It cited a study of 10 one-dollar bills from across cities in the United States and found that "nearly 80% of them had traces of cocaine."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, for instance, cited a study that urged it to advise about the proper way of handwashing. 

The study said that feces (poop) of people and animals are sources of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea, and it can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. 

Additionally, a single gram of human feces — which is about the weight of a paper clip — can contain one trillion germs. 

The study said that these germs latch on to the hands after using the toilet, handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal poop on them and touching contaminated surfaces, where previously someone had coughed or sneezed at. 

These are the reasons why major health agencies like the US CDC and the Philippines' DOH have been constantly urging the public to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water. 

With all of these in mind, it comes to mind how swallowing money can cause more harm that, when exacerbated, could cost more than what one can chew. 

RELATED: Maximum penalty urged vs NAIA officer who swallowed stolen $300

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