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Dopey money

Tecnociencia_ilustra BDANIEL BUENOMost of the paper money that circulates in the city of Rio de Janeiro and in 10 municipalities of Rio de Janeiro State exhibits traces of cocaine, indicates an analysis performed by researchers at the Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF). Chemist Wagner Pacheco and his team measured the concentration of the narcotic on 144 bills of the Brazilian currency (the real), of different denominations, obtained from various commercial establishments in the 11 cities. They found that, on average, 86% of the bills contained detectable levels of cocaine. Traces of the drug were most frequently found on the smaller bills: R$2, R$5, and R$10. Although the presence of cocaine on the bills was widely distributed, its concentration on bills collected in different regions of the state remained practically the same. According to the researchers, this is explained by wide circulation of the money, especially the lower-denomination bills, which leads to a rapid spread of the cocaine contamination (Forensic Science International, February 2015). Pacheco and his team believe that the fluorescence spectrometry technique that they used to measure the concentration of cocaine on the money may have forensic use: it could help determine whether a person has handled the drug. The cocaine concentrations on bills seized by the Rio de Janeiro police from drug dealers and drug users were about 30 times higher than on the bills examined during the study.