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Keywords:

  • Cocaine;
  • Gas chromatography–flame ionization detection–mass spectrometry;
  • Paper currency;
  • Solid phase extraction;
  • Ultrasonic extraction

Abstract

The presence of cocaine on US paper currency has been known for a long time. Banknotes become contaminated during the exchange, storage, and abuse of cocaine. The analysis of cocaine on various denominations of US banknotes in the general circulation can provide law enforcement circles and forensic epidemiologists objective and timely information on epidemiology of illicit drug use and on how to differentiate money contaminated in the general circulation from banknotes used in drug transaction. A simple, nondestructive, and accurate capillary gas chromatographic method has been developed for the determination of cocaine on various denominations of US banknotes in this study. The method comprises a fast ultrasonic extraction using water as a solvent followed by a SPE cleanup process with a C18 cartridge and capillary GC separation, identification, and quantification. This nondestructive analytical method has been successfully applied to determine the cocaine contamination in US paper currency of all denominations. Standard calibration curve was linear over the concentration range from the LOQ (2.00 ng/mL) to 100 μg/mL and the RSD less than 2.0%. Cocaine was detected in 67% of the circulated banknotes collected in Southeastern Massachusetts in amounts ranging from ∼2 ng to 49.4 μg per note. On average, $5, 10, 20, and 50 denominations contain higher amounts of cocaine than $1 and 100 denominations of US banknotes.