Bitcoin has emerged as a popular cryptocurrency for a reason. The benefits offered by Bitcoin compared to conventional fiat currency are numerous. The decentralized, secure and peer-to-peer nature of Bitcoin allows people to have complete control over their money. If those reasons aren’t enough, the use of Bitcoin comes with health benefits as well.
The physical currency notes and coins are probably some of the dirtiest things in the world. The money in circulation is handled by thousands of people in various settings, examples of which includes sweaty palms of a dock worker, bloody hands of a butcher, a mechanic’s greasy ones and more. The currency is stored in cash registers, someone’s back pockets, moldy purses, and wallets. All these things turn them into microbes’ own paradise.
A recent article on one of the leading science publication states the example of a US dollar. The dollar banknotes have an estimated lifespan of anywhere between 4 to 15 years and coins, more than 25 years. Not even once during this period is it disinfected or cleaned. Few of these banknotes potentially carry some of the deadly pathogens capable of causing anything from life-threatening blood infections to common cold.
The article refers to a study conducted by Australian researchers who found at least 10 microbes per square centimeter of US dollar — the highest among all the currencies they tested. Also, US Air Force researchers have found over 94 percent of all the currency notes harboring bacteria capable of causing pneumonia and other serious infections.
Apart from the threat posed by pathogens, it is not cheap to maintain enough liquidity in the economy. In certain situations, the banks may be forced to push older currency notes back into circulation to overcome the shortage. The Indian central bank did just that in the recent days following demonetization of higher denomination notes. In order to overcome the shortage of lower denomination currency, the Reserve Bank of India released the banknotes that were in storage meant for destruction, back into circulation. Those notes stored for long durations in vaults would have provided an ideal environment for microbes to thrive before it was put back into the hands of unsuspecting users.
Is there a way to minimize the health risk these currency notes pose? Yes, there are few ways, including periodic sterilization of bank notes (which is virtually impossible) or by increasing usage of cashless payment options (not the same as cold hard cash). Or another option is to start using the next best thing to cash — Bitcoin. All that is needed for conduction a Bitcoin transaction is one’s own cell phone. It’s agreed that even cell phones are carriers of a variety of microbes, but at least, in this case, the exposure is confined to certain environments, which the user is mostly familiar with. Also, the various cash-like characteristics of Bitcoin combined with the convenience of cashless payment systems offers an added advantage.