The word mutilated means to destroy/injure severely or to alter so as to make unrecognizable. There are a lot of mutilated naira notes in circulation. This is a result of the continuous circulation of the same notes among the masses, especially with the lower denominations.
A study conducted by three microbiologists (Yakubu, Ehiowemwenguan and Inetianbor, 2015) showed that there are micro-organisms associated with the mutilated naira notes. The study consisted of forty samples from volunteers made up of petty traders, beggars, motor conductors, food vendors and students, with five pieces each of all the naira note denominations.
The results showed that the bacterial isolates had a total count of 147 cfu/ml and the fungal isolates had a total count of 96 cfu/ml. 5.
The ₦1000 notes had the highest level of bacterial isolates and ₦200 the lowest. While for the fungal isolates ₦10, ₦20, ₦200 and ₦500 were the highest and ₦1000 the lowest.
A few of the bacterial infections present in these mutilated notes are –
Escherichia Coli, Staphylococcus Aureus, Streptococcus, Pseudomonas, Bacillus Sp.
Fungal infections present are –
Aspergillus Niger, Penicillium Sp. Rhizomes Sp. Trichoderma Sp.
The Nigerian Naira note is a combination of 75% cotton and 25% linen. Contamination could occur as a result of frequent usage, during storage, atmospheric conditions, etc. Handling practices such as the act of deliberately throwing money on the celebrants at a function which ends up on the floor (spraying) also contributes to the degeneration of the naira notes. Other habits asides spraying are :
1. Wetting of finger tips with saliva before counting.
2. Contaminated water to lubricate hand before counting notes.
3. Not washing hands after using the toilet and touching money thereafter.
4. Putting notes in sweaty body areas.
All these habits are major factors as to why the bacterial and fungal contamination in naira notes is high.
The question is: how microbiologically safe are our naira notes in circulation?
Humans are the cause of bacterial growth on the notes. When they come in contact with skin they become potential sources of diseases. The contamination of the mutilated naira notes are not dependent on the denominations. The unavailability of the higher notes have also increased the chances of contacting infections from smaller denominations. Bacteria and fungi infections can also lead to urinary tract infections, intestinal tract disease and rheumatic fever.
Another study by Simeon, Victor and Oguntibeju focused on the microbial contamination of currency counting machines and the counting room environment. Their research identified that 70% of all currency counting machines from the banks used as case study were contaminated with fungi and bacteria.
The European Central Bank has health/safety and environment management systems in place to ensure situations such as this are handled appropriately. Their responsibility is to promote good environmental management and minimize the risks to the general public and the workers involved in the production of the bank notes. The Central Bank of Nigeria needs to adopt this method, to ensure high standards are maintained concerning the health and safety of individuals as regards the naira notes. Most importantly, the withdrawal and replacement of contaminated/damaged notes by Federal Authorities is recommended.
Here are a few tips on how to handle the current state of our naira notes without getting an infection.
1. Thorough washing of the hands after handling the notes or coins.
2. Avoid keeping money in absurd places such as bras, shoes, socks etc.
3. Avoid using saliva to count money or placing notes in the mouth.