The Science of Toxicology Testing
The Science of Toxicology Testing
Can All Healthy Adults Use a Breath Alcohol Analyzer?

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Can All Healthy Adults Use a Breath Alcohol Analyzer?

I talk with Galen Ives, about his latest paper showing that not all healthy people can provide a valid breath sample into breath alcohol analyzers.

Woman providing a breath sample into a breathalyzer
Can all healthy people provide a valid breath sample into a breath alcohol analyzer?

While training officers, I’ve seen some struggle to provide valid breath samples. It’s not as easy as it looks. Sometimes, it takes several attempts and coaching for them to meet the minimum requirements.

And some people can’t provide the minimum breath, no matter how much coaching they get.

People who can’t meet the minimum often get charged with refusing to test. This is unfortunate because they end up with a penalty as bad as being double the legal limit.

Mr. Ives looked at over 200,000 spirometry records to determine the percentage of people who couldn’t meet the minimum requirements.

He found that women are more at risk than men and that age and stature have a big impact.

Here are a few of his findings:

  • the risk of not being able to provide a breath sample rises tenfold for men (0.16% vs 1.63%) and sixfold for women (0.65% to 3.83%) as they age from 40 to 70.

  • women were three times more likely to be unable to provide a sample than men

  • Short-statured elderly women had a 1 in 10 chance of being unable to provide a sample.

As a clinical psychopharmacologist, Mr. Ives also found that anxiety plays a role in whether or not a person can provide a sample. He talks about how anxiety causes a person’s muscles to contract. This results in shallow breaths, which could contribute to not providing a full sample.

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