Just saw a piece on the news tonight about the amount of infectious microbes present on paper money. Apparently money is dirtier than a toilet seat. The microbiology expert that tested the money warned of the many illnesses we’re in danger of contracting from handling the dirty green.

First, why does everybody assume a toilet seat is the dirtiest thing we encounter? Aside from public toilet seats used by unsanitary vagrants, and which are never cleaned, they can’t possibly be dirtier than a sink, the floor of a twenty-five cent peep show, or the bedspread at a motel. But money?…that seems obviously filthy.

Second, why be afraid of the germs we encounter on a day to day? If people really knew how many potential pathogens we come across in our daily lives, they’d feel real queasy. Hundreds of thousands of microorganisms are all around us–in our beds, in the shower, in the air, on door handles, everywhere. That’s precisely why we’ve developed immune systems–to fight the multitude of microorganisms we come in contact with everyday. Our immune systems are working silently to contain and defeat invaders, to suppress mini-cancers that pop-up from time to time, and to do it all without our knowing it. That’s exactly why immune deficiencies–like AIDS or radiation therapies–are so dangerous. They leave people immunocompromised and susceptible to disease. People with advanced AIDS often die from infections like Pneumocystis carinii (PCP) and Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which are usually benign to the average person.

But if your immune system is working fine, it defends you from microorganisms constantly. So don’t worry about the dirty money, the dirty air, or the dirty toilet seat. I’d still avoid public bathrooms like the plague, and use toilet seat tissue covers on shared bathrooms; but I wouldn’t stop taking money when it’s handed to me, germs or no germs. My immune system won’t allow that idiosyncrasy.

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