NewsBriefs BUTTONS

FBI Chemists Find Cocaine on Majority of Paper Currency in U.S.


November-December 1997

FBI chemists have discovered that traces of cocaine can be found on almost every dollar bill in the United States (Supplement, "Cocaine money," NewScientist (UK), October 4, 1997, p. 2).

Tom Jourdan, a chemist at the FBI's laboratory in Washington D.C., and his colleague, Deborah Wang, checked Federal Reserve notes from all over the country, including Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and inner-city streets. Using a specially adapted vacuum cleaner to pick up particles, the researchers then screened the samples with a portable ion mobility spectrometer.

They concluded that the primary culprit for the widespread traces of cocaine are automatic money counting machines in every bank and post office. The force of the rollers on currency is strong enough to strip off some of the surface fibers of paper, thus exposing and picking up the cocaine below. Jourdan said, "The extent of the contamination surprised everyone, early on."

The researchers said that finding cocaine on money may still good evidence in court. Although the mere presence of the drug is not significant, the amount of cocaine can be incriminating.