Blood alcohol screening is a test to measure the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream of a person. It is common to determine if someone has excessive drinking and, if so, how much is the blood alcohol level. A device like a breathalyser contains a sensor, like an infrared cell and fuel cell, that can detect alcohol metabolites. Nevertheless, the accuracy of the results depends on various factors. This may include medications, mouthwashes, blowing procedures, and calibration.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and heavy drinking are serious health concerns that can have detrimental effects on individuals and society as a whole. Both conditions can lead to various physical and mental health problems, including body weight, liver disease, and increased risk of accidents and injuries. Fortunately, there is a reliable testing method to deter the effects of alcohol. This article will present the screening, including how it works and the accuracy of results.
What is Blood Alcohol Screening
A blood alcohol screening through a breath test is a device to measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of a person. This is important because when people have heavy alcohol consumption, it gets absorbed into their bloodstream. As a result, it can be incorporated into the breath, providing a sample of breath. By measuring ethyl alcohol, the unit can estimate the level of alcohol in their blood.
Police officers use breathalysers, usually with fuel cell sensor technology, in roadside screening. This is to check if a driver is under the influence of alcohol. Accordingly, the screening is important for road safety because the presence of alcohol can impair the ability of a person to drive. As such, police officers can quickly determine if a driver has exceeded the legal limit.
In workplace testing, employers may use this procedure. This is to ensure that the employees are not under the influence of alcoholic drinks while on duty. This helps to reduce the risk of accidents caused by impaired judgment or poor coordination. Nevertheless, while urine tests and blood tests can determine blood alcohol content, a breathalyser is the most common.
Advantages Over Other Methods
The following are the advantages of breath testing over other alcohol testing methods:
- Non-invasive – it does not require any invasive procedures. This method only needs a sample of breath, which is less uncomfortable.
- Quick results – the breathalyser provides rapid results, usually as a percentage of blood alcohol.
- Ease of use – a breathalyser is relatively easy to operate, making it accessible for use by law enforcement, employers, and other people.
- Portability – this is beneficial at roadside checkpoints or on-the-spot testing. Also, this is valuable for medical professionals for emergency testing.
- Cost-effectiveness – it is a practical choice for frequent blood alcohol testing.
How a Blood Alcohol Screening Works
A blood alcohol screening works by measuring the intoxication level of a person. Accordingly, the concentration of alcohol in the breath is directly related to the amount of ethanol in the blood. Thus, by analysing the breath, the device can estimate the alcohol level in the blood stream. The process begins when an individual blows into the breathalyser.
The device contains a sensor that can detect alcohol metabolites in the breath. As the breath passes over the sensor, any amount of ethanol in the breath causes certain chemical reactions to occur. Consequently, the breathalyser uses a technology called infrared spectroscopy or fuel cell technology. In the case of infrared technology, the breath sample undergoes a beam of infrared light.
Meanwhile, in fuel cell breathalysers, the breath alcohol comes into contact with a platinum electrode that causes the ethanol to undergo a chemical reaction. Once the device measures the content of ethanol, it converts this information to a digital readout. This result is typically in numerical value, such as 0.00, which represents the BAC.
The detection time for ethanol using a breathalyser depends on several factors, including the amount of consumption of alcohol, the metabolism of a person, and the sensitivity of the device. In general, breathalysers are most effective at detecting recent alcohol consumption, typically a few hours after drinking.
After that time, the BAC in the breath decreases as the body continues to metabolise and eliminate the ethanol. However, it is important to note that individual variations in metabolism and other factors can affect the accuracy of the detection time. For longer-detection, other methods, such as blood or urine may be beneficial.
Accuracy and Reliability of Blood Alcohol Screening Results
There are several factors that can influence the accuracy and reliability of blood alcohol screening results. Firstly, the accuracy of the breathalyser depends on its calibration. Recalibration involves adjusting the device to ensure that it accurately measures the amount of alcohol in the breath. Secondly, the proper usage of the device is crucial. Users must follow instructions for operating the unit.
Furthermore, the presence of substances other than ethanol can potentially interfere with the accuracy of the results. For instance, some substances, such as mouthwash or medications, may contain alcohol or produce similar substances. Therefore, it may provide false positives. It is important to disclose any potential sources of interference to ensure the reliability of the results.
Moreover, environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, can also impact the performance of breathalysers. These devices may be sensitive to extreme temperatures and high humidity. It is essential to use breathalysers in appropriate environmental conditions to ensure reliable results. In terms of reliability, professional-grade devices deliver consistent results.
Factors that May Affect the Results
One of the significant factors is the physiological differences among individuals. People have varying metabolisms, body compositions, and alcohol tolerance levels. Another critical factor is the timing of the alcohol consumption. Breathalysers are most effective at detecting alcohol shortly after drinking. Therefore, the results can be influenced by how long it has been since the drinking.
The technical aspects of the breathalyser also play a crucial role in the accuracy of the results. The calibration and maintenance of the device are essential factors that can affect the reading. Also, the humidity and temperature can affect the results of the testing.
In conclusion, blood alcohol screening is an essential tool in various settings. By accurately measuring the level of alcohol in the bloodstream of a person, conductors can determine who may pose a risk. This is useful for police officers, employers, and individuals. Accordingly, the device works by collecting a breath sample. These specimens undergo sensors that can detect the presence of ethanol. Eventually, the unit will display the BAC level, usually in percentage.
The breathalyser has numerous advantages over other testing methods. It is non-invasive, provides quick results, is easy to use, portable, and cost-effective. Nevertheless, the accuracy and reliability of the results depends on various factors. It may include recalibration, proper usage, the presence of other substances, and environmental factors. Also, there are cases that may affect the result. This may involve personal differences like metabolism, the timing of consumption, the maintenance of the device, and temperatures.