A bad day can become a really good one if you wind up finding some money on the ground, but it turns out that for some folks, finding a $1 bill on the floor could turn a good day into the worst one ever.
In fact, according to one Tennessee police department, picking up a folded dollar bill could be deadly. The warning came in the form of a public safety notice posted on the Giles County Sheriff Department's Facebook page. In it, they explain that there have been two recent incidents in the area where a folded dollar bill was discovered on the floor of a gas station and both bills had a white powdery substance inside. The powder was sent in for testing where it was identified as methamphetamine and fentanyl.
In their post, the sheriff's office included a photo of a penny next to a tiny amount of white powder. It says that if fentanyl laced, that's all the powder it would take to kill anyone who comes in contact with it.
They urge parents to teach their children not to pick up any folded money that they find. While this is good advice and anyone should question picking something up off the ground if they don't know where it came from, the idea that fentanyl can kill someone by exposure or touch is up for debate.
In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration put out a warning that said, "Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or accidental inhalation of airborne powder can also occur. Just touching fentanyl or accidentally inhaling the substance during enforcement activity or field testing the substance can result in absorption through the skin. The onset of adverse health effects, such as disorientation, coughing, sedation, respiratory distress or cardiac arrest is very rapid and profound, usually occurring within minutes of exposure." Three yers later, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention released a similar warning.
However, according to the American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, those warnings aren't accurate and the risk of exposure to fentanyl causing any adverse effects is very low. One study shows it would actually take 200 minutes of breathing fentanyl at very high concentrations to have an effect, and that effect would not be fatal.