Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fumes from hand sanitizing gels can lead to false positive BAC tests

Hand Sanitizing stationImage by John Kannenberg via Flickr

In yet another shining example of why breathalyzer tests are so unreliable, it was recently reported that hand sanitizing gels that contain alcohol, such as Purell, can lead to false positive test results. As explained in this article, the gels give off 80% proof fumes that, when inhaled, can result in breathalyzer results indicating a high level of blood alcohol content:
The surprise result arose after staff at a secure unit for psychiatric patients tested a woman who claimed she had not been drinking but failed a breathalyster (sic)...

Despite insisting she had not ‘touched a drop’, the unnamed patient tested positive for alcohol. Staff investigated her denial and asked a clinician to reproduce the test, by first disinfecting hands in the normal way before using the ‘alcometer’ device.

They were stunned when the result recorded was equivalent to drinking two units of alcohol – the same as an average strength pint of beer or a glass of wine.

They determined that alcohol used in the gels was lingering in the atmosphere in such quantities that traces could be inhaled during a breath test and massively skew the readings.

Following this discovery, it is now recommended that, in British hospitals, breathalyzer tests be administered at least 5 minutes after hand sanitizing gels are used, so that the test results won't be affected. Who knows how many other "quirks" exist that affect breathalyzer tests--and how many innocent people have been convicted of DUI because of inaccurate test results? It's a troubling question and one that deserves a definitive answer. Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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