As the financial institution explains, “our cash […] serves as a breeding ground for a variety of microbes”. This applies to both euro banknotes and euro coins, which, according to various scientific studies, harbor at least fungi, bacteria and viruses. “Beware of germ traps,” is the warning.

The so-called Dirty Money Project, a scientific study by biologists and microbiologists, investigated which microorganisms live on banknotes. The aim was to better understand which microbes circulate on banknotes and what potential health risks they could pose.

In one sample, the researchers found genetic traces of more than 3,000 different types of bacteria. Many of these came from human skin, but there were also traces of microbes normally found in the mouth, nose and even the intestines. Microorganisms commonly found in homes and on public surfaces were also found.

But it’s not just banknotes that are a breeding ground for germs. Anyone who uses cash in the form of coins also has to reckon with their companions. The good news: Due to their nature and the materials used, they are less susceptible to microbes. Coins with a high copper content are the least contaminated because the precious metal has natural antibacterial properties, as researchers at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf confirm.

But be careful: Even if the majority of microbes discovered on banknotes and coins can be harmless or even useful for humans, some potential pathogens that can cause infections or diseases have also been identified, at least on coins.

These viruses can survive on cash for a particularly long time:

If you want to protect yourself, you can first pay attention to the type of cash. As the Sparkasse further explains, banknotes with low denominations in particular have a higher germ density because they change owners and wallets much more often.

In addition, careful handling of cash is recommended: “It is advisable […] to observe basic hygiene measures such as regular hand washing, especially after handling money and before eating. In times of increased risk of infection, e.g. during flu season, the use of contactless payment methods can be a useful preventive measure to reduce direct contact with microbes.

Sources: Sparkasse, University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, own research

By Dana Neumann

The original for this article “Sparkasse warns about cash: What consumers should do now” comes from