The Quantitation of Cocaine on U.S. Currency: Survey and Significance of the Levels of Contamination

Thomas H. Jourdan, Allison M. Veitenheimer, Cynthia K. Murray, Jarrad R. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


It has long been suspected that the illicit distribution of cocaine in the United States has led to a large-scale contamination of the currency supply. To investigate the extent of contamination, 418 currency samples (4174 bills) were collected from 90 locations around the United States from 1993 to 2009. The extent of their cocaine contamination was quantitated via gas chromatography/mass spectrometry or liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. The level of cocaine contamination was determined to average 2.34 ng/bill across all denominations ($1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100). Levels of cocaine contamination on currency submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in criminal cases over the 1993-2001 timeframe had significantly higher contamination than currency in general circulation. A mathematical model was developed based on the background survey that indicates the likelihood of drawing a bill in specific concentration ranges. For example, there is a 0.8349 likelihood that random bill will have contamination less than 20 ng.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)616-624
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Cocaine
  • Contamination of currency
  • Forensic science
  • Gas chromatography
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry


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