Bitcoin: The Hand Hygiene Perspective

March 4, 2021 Ofir Broides Vavker

Why is our money so dirty?

According to the Federal Reserve, dollar bills circulate for around 6.6 years – passing hands and collecting bacteria in the process. When they first start out, new bills have an antimicrobial substance embedded in them, however, it is slowly rubbed away over time. So as money gets older, microbes can thrive on it more easily.

During these six years in which the money circulates around the country, the bills are handled by different people, in different environments which affects the number of microorganisms that are able to survive on them. For example, oil from greasy hands that handled eating street food can actually feed the bacteria living on the bills, humid and warm environments can encourage bacterial growth, and so on.

Lower-value bills tend to be exchanged more often, which is why they pick up more micro-organisms than their expensive counterparts. A previous study concluded physical currency is exchanged almost once a week throughout its circulation period – a minimum of 55 times a year! According to a 2014 research (a product of a collaboration between Mastercard and the University of Oxford), there are 26,000 types of bacteria on the average banknote (including E-Coli!).

A specific study that examined dollar bills from NYC found that the most common bacteria on the bills was propionibacterium acnes – responsible for acne breakouts on the skin. So if you’ve been having a bad skin day, you might want to look into your hand hygiene routine after handling money! A different study found a variety of bacteria linked to food poisoning, staph infections, gastric ulcers, and pneumonia. Another study found high percentages of the dangerous superbug MRSA (Methicillin-resistant S. aureus) on coins.

Bacteria are not the only thing dirtying our bills. In fact, an earlier study found cocaine traces on 80% of paper bills! Other drugs, such as heroin (found on 70% of bills) and methamphetamine (30% of bills) have also been found on the papery surface.

It’s rare for money to be disinfected, which is why it keeps on collecting bacteria from hand to hand uninterrupted. It’s not all bad, though – viruses have a natural life-span on inanimate objects, and it can be rather short. Some viruses, however, can live up to 72 hours on banknotes – which is why it is so important to wash your hands after handling them.

In fact, during the covid-19 pandemic, China started disinfecting its money with UV light and high temperatures before it was released back into circulation as an attempt to protect its citizens against the pandemic. The World Health Organization, however, has previously stated that washing hands after handling potentially contaminated money is the best route of action.

Credit cards aren’t much cleaner, either. Although cash is traded hands more often and is in circulation for longer, credit cards are used much more frequently. They are also placed on top of potentially dirty surfaces a lot more – bar tops, tabletops, cashier stands, and more.  One study found the average germ score on credit cards was a shocking 285 – a restaurant is obliged to have a score of 10 maximum.

Remember to wash your hands well, especially before eating or touching your face. Soapy’s CleanMachine is the best way to wash hands – on top of dispensing the exact amount of soap and warm water needed for a perfect wash cycle, the automatic hand wash machine scans the hands and lets you know how well you washed. It also guides the handwashing process with a smart screen that shows you what movements to carry out.

The next time you’re handling your cash or credit card, remember to wash your hands mindfully afterward. The actual physical scrubbing of hands is a big part of lifting the germs off of the skin, while the soap and water help wash them away.   

How does bitcoin change hand hygiene habits for the better?

Different forms of online currency render credit cards and physical bills obsolete. One of these forms is Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that can be bought and exchanged without the need for a mediator like a bank. Technically speaking, Bitcoin is “real money” in every sense of the phrase. The thing is – it is 100% online and cannot be redeemed for physical banknotes. It can be used to buy things directly and is beginning to be widely accepted by many shops. In order to pay with bitcoin, all you have to do is access your Bitcoin wallet app and scan the other party’s phone or touch the phones together.

Using Bitcoin would mean no more touching dirty cash or credit cards – just your own phone. That doesn’t mean your phone isn’t dirty at all, but it’s a big step in the right direction because phones can be much easier to clean and disinfect than cash.

As humans, we use our hands to explore our surroundings. That habit can become dangerous when we touch harmful pathogens and bacteria and accidentally bring them into our bodies. When handling something as dirty as cash is, it’s imperative we wash our hands afterward. Or, like Bitcoin seems to suggest, just not touch it at all! Technological advancements keep pushing mankind towards better, safer futures.

If you want to wash your hands with Soapy, too, you can contact us to get more info on the CleanMachine.

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