Washington, August 17 (ANI): In a new analysis, scientists have found traces of cocaine in up to 90 percent of paper money in the United States, particularly in large cities such as Baltimore, Boston, and Detroit.
This is the largest, most comprehensive analysis to date of cocaine contamination in banknotes.
The scientists found traces of cocaine in 95 percent of the banknotes analyzed from Washington, D.C., alone.
Amounts ranged from .006 micrograms (several thousands of times smaller than a single grain of sand) to over 1,240 micrograms of cocaine per banknote (about 50 grains of sand).
The new study suggests that cocaine abuse is still widespread and may be on the rise in some areas. It could help raise public awareness about cocaine use and lead to greater emphasis on curbing its abuse, the researchers say.
The scientists tested banknotes from more than 30 cities in five countries, including the US, Canada, Brazil, China, and Japan, and found "alarming" evidence of cocaine use in many areas.
The US and Canada had the highest levels, with an average contamination rate of between 85 and 90 percent, while China and Japan had the lowest, between 12 and 20 percent contamination.
According to the researchers, the study is the first report about cocaine contamination in Chinese and Japanese currencies.
"To my surprise, we're finding more and more cocaine in banknotes," said study leader Yuegang Zuo, of the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth.
Zuo said that that the high percentage of contaminated US currency observed in the current study represents nearly a 20 percent jump in comparison to a similar study he conducted two years ago.
That earlier study indicated that 67 percent of bills in the US contained traces of cocaine.
"I'm not sure why we've seen this apparent increase, but it could be related to the economic downturn, with stressed people turning to cocaine," Zuo said.
Such studies are useful, he noted, because the data can help law enforcement agencies and forensic specialists identify patterns of drug use in a community. (ANI)