Money makes woman ill

A former New Zealand bank teller, who fell sick after handling large amounts of currency notes in an unventilated vault, says “money is the filthiest stuff you could ever imagine”.

Stephanie Connell, 52, suffered from depression, body rash and exhaustion and some some of the symptoms remain 18 months after leaving the job.

She took up a bulk teller’s position in March 2007 after working as a Westpac teller for almost 10 years, The Press reported on Monday.

Connell worked in “an unventilated vault, about the size of a double garage” where she constantly handled notes and ripped the tops of plastic bags containing money.

“There was a lot of green dust coming off the $20 bills that we ran through the bill counter.

“Money is the filthiest stuff you could ever imagine. You can absorb the dust through your hands, but I was inhaling it as well,” she was quoted as saying.

By July 2008, Connell had “waves of anxiety, difficulty breathing, and a chemical, metallic taste” in her mouth.

The symptoms would clear overnight, but return at work. She was bedridden for several weeks and referred to a psychiatrist.

“They took my health and my livelihood. I thought, if this is the way I’m living, I want to die.”

She browsed the internet and found the multiple-chemical sensitivity syndrome that matched her symptoms.

General practitioner Ted Pearson said in a letter to the bank’s union: “The symptoms and harm suffered by Stephanie were the direct result of her exposure to dust and fumes whilst handling money, not from any other non-work activities or environments”.

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