Next Target of Toxic Police: Dollar Bills

Toxin transfers easily to skin.

By Matt Baume
|  Wednesday, Dec 8, 2010  |  Updated 6:34 PM PDT
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The latest thing you have to worry about getting you ill is cold hard cash.

NBC Bay Area

The latest thing you have to worry about getting you ill is cold hard cash.

Need another good reason to go cashless. Tests show that Bisphenol-A, a known carcinogen, is smeared across dollar bills.

Bisphenol-A is bad news. It's an endocrine disruptor, and studies have linked it to obesity, infant brain damage, thyroid disease, various types of cancer, heart diseases and "permanent changes to genital tract." It's used to make polycarbonate plastic for water bottles, eyeglasses, dental equipment, DVDs and a variety of other plastic products.

Look for a recycling-triangle with a three in the center, or a seven -- those can indicate that BPA is present. The chemical is difficult to remove from skin, and can become lodged in the body with repeated exposure.

Crucially, it's also used in some cash register receipts, and that could be how it's making its way onto currency.

The manufacturers of the chemical claim that it's safe, and that human exposure is minimal. Meanwhile, the substance has been banned or restricted in many countries, but not in the United States.

It's been known for some time that you can absorb BPA by drinking from plastic water bottles. But this is the first time that attention has been paid to exposure from heat-sensitive papers.

For now, the research is still quite preliminary, and there's no evidence that you need to stop touching paper money altogether. A far greater risk is those cash register receipts.

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