What is an Alco Tester?
05 May, 2023
An alcohol or alco tester is a measuring device that estimates the amount of alcohol in the blood. It goes by many names, including alcohol meter, breath analyser or breathalyser. A mouthpiece that captures the exhaled breath into a tube and analyses it through the sensors. As a result, it calculates the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). The higher the BAC level, the more severe the intoxication. Testing is essential since alcohol contributes to many accidents and health problems.
Severe alcohol intoxication or impairment affects the functions of the central nervous system, particularly senses, judgement, and coordination. Therefore, these affect a person’s ability to operate a vehicle or machinery and make sound decisions. Law enforcement, healthcare, and high-risk industries conduct screening tests to help prevent safety hazards brought about by alcohol use. The article below will talk about the functions of alcohol breath testers, their features, and how to operate them.
The Functions and Uses of Alco Testers
The standard method of testing the BAC or alcohol level is through a breath test. When a person consumes alcohol, small portions pass through the small intestines, entering the bloodstream and the lungs within minutes. Therefore, the exhaled breath contains alcohol. A breathalyser or alco tester undergoes a chemical process to measure the alcohol concentration relative to the amount in the blood. It produces tiny electrical currents and converts them into the corresponding BAC.
Primarily, law enforcement uses it in roadside screening to check the drivers’ BAC levels. A person exceeding the legal alcohol limit is subject to charges or penalties. Additionally, companies use a breathalyser to monitor alcohol use or impairment in the workplace. It aims to maintain a risk-free environment and a high level of productivity. Therefore, an accurate device is vital to prevent alcohol-related accidents. It is a cost-efficient process compared to other test methods.
Individuals may also get an alco tester for personal use. Many kinds of breathalyser devices are available to help people manage their alcohol intake and prevent severe intoxication. For example, they may test their breath every hour to see the rate of increase. Therefore, they can control their consumption and help keep their BAC below the legal limit. Likewise, it is convenient to monitor the decline of their alcohol levels.
Alcohol Tests in the Workplace
- Pre-employment – to determine an applicant’s consumption behaviour
- Pre-site screening – before entering a safety-critical area, such as mines, factories, and construction sites
- Random testing – to identify employees posing risks
- Target testing – test on a specific worker showing symptoms of impairment
- Follow-up/post-treatment – employees with a previous positive test result undergo a new alcohol test
Alcohol Testers: Types of Sensors
The quality or accuracy of the alcohol tester depends on the kind of sensor technology it utilises. The standard types are semiconductor and fuel cell sensors. A semiconductor breathalyser contains a tin-oxide substance to calculate the amount of alcohol in the breath. Moreover, they can give reliable results given precise deep lung air and no other volatile substance in the bloodstream. This breathalyser type suits low-volume testing and quick alcohol screening.
The second type is the fuel cell sensor. Fuel cell breathalysers contain two platinum electrodes to quantify the BAC. In addition, they have high specificity to ethanol and are not reactive to other endogenous substances. Consequently, it will not interfere with the BAC readings of people with diabetes or with high acetone levels. Unlike semiconductor breathalysers, they do not interact with alcohol-based products like mouthwash and breath sprays. Hence, they are least likely to produce false positives.
Choosing an alco tester would depend on the accuracy and testing needs. For example, people who need to check for the presence of alcohol, regardless of concentration, may use a semiconductor breathalyser. They are also more affordable than fuel cell breathalysers. However, individuals relying on high accuracy may use a fuel cell breathalyser. It is considered the breath test standard in professional settings. Conveniently, you can get reasonable pro-grade devices for personal use, such as the BACtrack from Breathalysers Australia.
Advantages of Fuel Cell Breathalysers
- Ethanol-specific and does not react to smoke, breath acetone, and volatile chemicals
- Maintain accuracy over a more extended period
- Give consistent results in repeat testing
- Have less-frequent recalibration requirements
- Trace alcohol concentrations over a complete BAC range expected in the breath
- Have a short turnaround time
How to Use an Alco Tester
Portable alco testers are convenient to carry and easy to use. Breathalysers like BACtrack have a one-touch operation for efficient breath testing. To operate the device, press the power button and wait for the sensors to warm up. It initiates a countdown timer to prepare the subject for the test. Upon the start signal, take a deep breath and blow steadily to the mouthpiece for five seconds or longer. Then, the sensors will display the results within 10-15 seconds.
It is essential to give a consistent or long blow to ensure the breathalyser only captures the deep lung air. In contrast, if the exhale is too short, the sensors may not have enough breath samples to analyse. The screen will display a message indicating the specific error. Therefore, you may need to take a new test. To ensure adequate breath samples, keep blowing to the mouthpiece until you hear the end of a beep.
Furthermore, the increase rate of the BAC depends on several factors. These include weight, body composition, metabolism, hydration level, food intake, and medication interactions. Therefore, even if two people consume the same type and amount of alcoholic beverage, they are unlikely to have the same BAC. Understanding how alcohol affects the body is essential in using an alcohol tester. Moreover, it gives reliable readings, eliminating the perils of relying on guess estimates.
Breath Test Guidelines
To ensure accurate results, follow the breath test guide below:
- Wait 15-20 minutes after eating, drinking, or smoking before using a breath tester
- Avoid exposing the sensors to saliva and other contaminants
- Do not perform the test in an alcohol or smoke-filled room
- Ensure the device is regularly calibrated
An alcohol tester is a cost-efficient device for measuring blood alcohol levels after consumption. It is a quick and non-invasive way to determine the BAC. Additionally, a breathalyser uses sensor technology to examine the breath sample. Therefore, it can give accurate BAC readings in seconds. Law enforcement and workplaces implement breath tests to identify safety risks and prevent untoward incidents. Likewise, individuals may use a personal device like BACtrack to keep their BAC from reaching the legal limit.
Choosing a device depends on a person’s needs. For example, workers in high-risk sectors may get a pro-grade breathalyser to ensure they are sober before work. In addition, correctly using a breathalyser is vital in obtaining accurate and reliable results. Therefore, it can help individuals make informed decisions and minimise hazards while driving or working. In conclusion, alcohol breath testers are worthwhile investments for securing safety.