Breathalysers like BACtrack are testing devices to measure a person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). However, various factors can cause BACtrack false positives, such as incorrect usage, taking the test immediately after drinking, and not recalibrating the breathalyser. Individuals use breath testers to check or monitor their BAC levels after alcohol consumption. Thus, it aids people in making informed decisions, especially in driving. Knowing their BAC is high helps deter drink driving and avoid road accidents.
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to severe mental and physical impairments affecting one’s ability to drive safely. In addition, alcohol-impaired driving is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents or collisions. For this reason, police implement roadside screening to pull out drivers posing risks. As a result, individuals check their BAC before driving to ensure they are below the legal limits. The following sections talk about how breathalysers work and what can cause false-positive results.
BACtrack False Positives: How Breathalysers Work
Knowing how a breathalyser works are essential to understand what can cause BACtrack false positives. Breathalysers are electronic devices relying on semiconductor or fuel cell sensor technologies to calculate the BAC. Semiconductor sensors use a tin-oxide substance to process alcohol in the breath sample. They are not specific to ethanol; thus, they respond to other compounds or gases, such as acetone or cigarette smoke. Nevertheless, they are reliable when used under the right conditions.
Fuel cell sensors rely on an electrochemical process to oxidise alcohol. They are specific to ethanol and do not react to other substances. Therefore, they are less likely to produce false positives. For example, it will not interfere with the BAC results of people with diabetes who have high acetone levels in their breath. They are also more stable than semiconductor breathalysers. Due to their high accuracy, it is the sensor technology used by law enforcement, hospitals and workplaces.
Each sensor produces a chemical reaction or small electrical currents based on the amount of alcohol in the breath. Then, the device converts the number of currents into the corresponding BAC value. Furthermore, BACtrack devices integrate valuable features to help ascertain the reliability of BAC readings. Although BACtrack false positives are unlikely with fuel cell breathalysers, several factors may cause the BAC level to increase despite minimal alcohol consumption.
Advantages of Fuel Cell Breathalysers
- Specificity – fuel cell sensors are only responsive to ethanol
- Short preparation time – the breathalysers can perform continuous testing with short rest periods between each test.
- Stability – the sensors remain consistent longer, needing less recalibration frequency than semiconductor breathalysers.
- Durability – fuel cell sensors are serviceable for 3 to 5 years.
Factors that Can Cause BACtrack False Positive
Several factors can cause BACtrack false positives, especially on semiconductor sensors. One of the main reasons triggering high BAC is if the person takes a breath test immediately after consuming alcohol. It is advisable to wait 15 to 20 minutes after eating, drinking, or smoking before using a breathalyser. The period allows alcohol to enter the bloodstream from the stomach and reach the lungs. It also eliminates alcohol residue in the mouth from interfering with the breath test.
Alcohol can react with particular food and medication, triggering high BAC levels. Drug interactions influence the way the body handles alcohol. So even if a person ingests a small amount, it may cause false positives. Examples are asthma medications, OTC pain relievers, and cough syrups. Likewise, eating a meal can cause acid reflux, interfering with alcohol breath tests. Moreover, medical conditions like gastrointestinal disorders and diabetes can result in higher BAC outcomes.
Furthermore, a BACtrack false positive is possible when the device is not recalibrated on time. Breathalyser sensors gradually drift as it accumulates alcohol residue, causing a high or low reading. Therefore, all breathalysers require periodic recalibration to maintain sensor performance and accuracy. During recalibration, a trained professional cleans and resets the sensor to its baseline values. It performs several tests to ensure it is within the acceptable variance range.
Other Factors Affecting the BAC Level
Several variables influence the BAC differently according to each person. These factors are:
- Body fat content or distribution
- Metabolic rate
- Hydration level
- Beverage type and percentage of alcohol in a drink
- Alcohol tolerance
- Dental works with alcohol-based medication, cleaners, antiseptics, or mouthwash
- Having a fever
How to Prevent BACtrack False Positive
Most BACtrack personal devices at Breathalysers Australia employ fuel cell sensors for high accuracy and reliability. Individuals driving over the alcohol limit are subject to legal penalties when caught during routine inspections. Hence, regular consumers can use professional-grade breathalysers for personal use. To prevent BACtrack false positives, ensure that the device works properly and avoid using weak batteries. Also, follow the general guidelines of alcohol breath tests, like waiting for 15 to 20 minutes after drinking.
Furthermore, take a deep breath and blow continuously for five seconds or more when providing a breath sample. It ensures that deep lung air goes through the sensor to be analysed. It is essential not to spit or blow other particles in the mouthpiece to avoid damaging the sensors. Likewise, taking the test in a smoke-filled room may cause the fumes to enter the breathalyser and cause inaccurate readings.
The BACtrack breathalysers have a breath capture system that ensures only the precise air sample goes through the sensors. A mini breath pump activates at the end of each test to draw deep lung air. Thus, it minimises capturing ambient fumes and prevents BACtrack false positives. Moreover, the BACtrack Pro series utilises the Xtend fuel cell sensor technology, which can trace alcohol concentrations over a complete BAC range. Therefore, it can precisely estimate the BAC without losing accuracy.
BACtrack Personal Breathalysers
- Semiconductor – the BACtrack Go Keychain is the sole semiconductor breathalyser at BAU, with a fold-away mouthpiece and enhanced algorithm for accurate results.
- Smartphone – breathalysers with Bluetooth connectivity to access app features from a smartphone.
- Police-grade – the most accurate breathalysers utilising the Xtend fuel cell sensor technology.
Incorrect usage of the breathalyser can cause BACtrack false positives, like not waiting the allotted period, not regularly recalibrating, and several factors. Some of the reasons that may influence a person’s BAC are body type, food, water, and medicine intake, alcohol tolerance, and metabolism. For example, interactions with drugs can rapidly increase the alcohol level. Therefore, it is vital to know how alcohol affects your body to avoid high BAC.
Semiconductor breathalysers are more low-cost and suitable for low-volume use. On the other hand, fuel cell breathalysers are more stable and accurate. They are ethanol-specific and, thus, not prone to false-positive results. You may get pro-grade devices like BACtrack, similar to police breathalysers, to get the most reliable readings. Breathalysers Australia offers a wide range of BACtrack personal breathalysers suiting various preferences. Lastly, each device presents useful features to help deliver precise BAC results.