dirty coins good for health

“Dirty” coins are better at killing bacteria than clean pocket change, according to Ben Schneiderman.

The 15-year-old investigator from Palmer Township should know.

He recently won an award for proving that the oxide “skin” on coins kills E. coli bacteria.

The skin forms naturally when coins contact oxygen in the air, he said.

Schneiderman, a sophomore at Easton Area High School, said he came up with the experiment as a project for his biology class.

“I was trying to think of something that would pertain to everyday life, and I know a lot of people are paranoid about whether or not coins are dirty,” he said.

He said he decided to get a “jump start” on the project over Christmas break.

For the project, he had access to a laboratory at Lafayette College and had a professor supervise him – his father, Howard Schneiderman, who is head of the department of anthropology and sociology.

Because his son plays three sports, he could not find time to conduct the experiments at the high school, Howard Schneiderman said.

The younger Schneiderman said that being able to use the laboratory gave him a “real big advantage.”

He exposed coins that he had cleaned and coins with the oxide coating to E. coli bacteria.

His findings were surprising, he said.

“Before this experiment, I just thought coins were dirty,” he said.

The coins with the oxide were either completely or mostly free of the bacteria; not so with the cleaned coins, he said.

The findings show that the oxide itself, not the metals in the coins, inhibits bacteria growth, he said.

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