April 13, 2024


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The Common Sources Of Errors In Breathalyzers

3 min read

A breathalyzer is an accurate scientific device that determines the level of alcohol in the person’s body through breathing. Breathalyzer is the device used by policemen to check drunk drivers. Because of its accuracy, it has been used as evidence in the court. Policemen and other law enforcements should be well- trained and capable in handling this device, and the device itself should be well- maintained to avoid inaccurate results. It is possible to have a personal breathalyzer to know if you can drive. Keychain breathalyzer can be very useful while you are out there partying.

Breathalyzer is a sensitive device and external and internal factors can easily affect the results. Policemen should be aware of the common sources of errors in breathalyzer to avoid conflicts. They should know the factors affecting it and how to eliminate these factors.

Here are some common sources of errors in using the breathalyzer.


Any device that has internal settings should be regularly calibrated. This means that the breathalyzer’s internal settings should be adjusted to a known alcohol standard. Breathalyzers have semiconductor sensors that are easily contaminated with other substances. It is required that every six months, these sensors should be calibrated or replaced. Breathalyzers that have platinum fuel cell sensors are calibrated once a year.

Other Compounds

It has been found out that acetone level is identified as an ethyl alcohol by some breathalyzers. People with diabetes have a very high acetone level in their body and because of this the device rates them with high alcohol content. Breathalyzers with fuel cell sensors can now identify acetone and eliminate it in its reading. Other compounds that can interfere in blood alcohol content in breathalyzers are paint remover, lacquer, gasoline, celluloid, methyl tert-butyl ether and cleaning substances with alcohol, ethers and other volatile compounds.

Mouth Alcohol

It is typical that when you burped or vomited, there is an alcohol released in your mouth. Some breathalyzers can read it as if you have drunk alcohol. The device would assume that the alcohol is from the alveolar air. Even if how less the alcohol content in the mouth is, the breathalyzer will still read it generally. There are times your body releases alcohol like when you are burping, vomiting, regurgitating and eructating. Even kissing a person who drank alcohol can cause to a false reading.

Absorptive Phase

Peak absorption of alcohol happens within the first hour. Generally, alcohol absorption happens after 20 minutes to two and a half hours from the last consumption. During the first stage in absorptive phase, the alcohol is not distributed in the body equally. Equal distribution when absorptive phase is complete. Hence, one part of the body has higher alcohol content and the other parts have less.


One common source of error in breathalyzers is caused by the electric interference form cell phones and police radios. It is advisable to turn of these gadgets when doing the test.

These common sources of errors in breathalyzers can easily be avoided as long as the personnel who are administering the test are aware of the factors. Since breathalyzers are trusted by courts, tests should be done appropriately and accurately.

Source by Zippornia Lee

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