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Traces of cocaine on 85% of Canadian bills

There's a 95-per-cent chance that U.S. President Barack Obama carries traces of cocaine in his wallet, according to new research.

Chances are, so do you.

A study presented yesterday at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society found soaring levels of cocaine contamination in banknotes across North America. Up to 90 per cent of paper money from the United States carries traces of cocaine, according to the research, compared with up to 85 per cent contamination on Canadian bills.

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"Most people have some coke in their wallets," said the study's lead researcher, Yuegang Zuo, a chemist at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth.

Dr. Zuo and his colleagues tested banknotes in various denominations from more than 30 cities in five countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil and China. Ninety per cent of 237 bills tested from the United States were contaminated with cocaine, with cities such as Baltimore, Boston and Detroit showing the highest levels. Ninety-five per cent of the bills from Washington, D.C., were tainted.

The researchers also tested 27 bills from Canada and found that 85 per cent contained traces of the drug, with amounts ranging from 2.4 micrograms to more than 2,530 micrograms of coke per banknote.

Banknotes can pick up traces of cocaine from users snorting it through rolled-up bills, when contaminated bills are stacked together at banks, or when the drug rubs off of hands, Dr. Zuo said. Despite the high percentage of drug-contaminated banknotes, Dr. Zuo said the amount found was so small that consumers should not have any health or legal concerns about handling money. "For the most part, you can't get high by sniffing a regular banknote, unless it was used directly in drug uptake or during a drug exchange."

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