Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gasoline Additive Interferes With Alcohol Breath Analyzers

Date:
December 20, 2001
Source:
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School Of Public Health
Summary:
A study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says that very high exposure to a gasoline additive, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), can trigger a false positive reading on some breath-alcohol analyzers used by law enforcement officers to determine legal intoxication. MTBE is used to oxygenate gasoline and in some areas is required by law to reduce emissions.

A study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says that very high exposure to a gasoline additive, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), can trigger a false positive reading on some breath-alcohol analyzers used by law enforcement officers to determine legal intoxication. MTBE is used to oxygenate gasoline and in some areas is required by law to reduce emissions. The findings appear in the December 2001 issue of Forensic Science International. “Human exposure to MTBE has become widespread. Under unique circumstances, exposures can be quite high. Because MTBE readily partitions from the blood into the breath, there is the potential for interference on breath alcohol analyzers,” says Timothy J. Buckley, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We studied this and our results showed that MTBE does present a positive interference on the older type analyzers. Workers like gas station attendants and auto mechanics may receive sufficient levels of MTBE to trigger a .10 reading on certain breath-alcohol analyzers, which is one legal standard for intoxication, but only in combination with drinking alcohol. MTBE exposure on its own is not enough to trigger a false positive reading of .10,” explains Dr. Buckley.

Related Articles


New Jersey state officials first raised the question of whether MTBE exposure could interfere with breath-alcohol analyzer when they were challenged in a court case in 1995. Dr. Buckley and his colleagues compared the Breathalyzer™ with the Alcotest™ detector. Both breath-alcohol analyzers are commonly used by police officers in United States. The Breathalyzer™ was developed in the 1950s and uses a visible light detector to determine the presence of alcohol in the breath, while the newer Alcotest™ uses electrochemical and infrared absorption sensors to detect alcohol levels. Various breath mixtures of MTBE and MTBE mixed with alcohol were simulated in a laboratory and run through both machines.

According to the study’s results, MTBE presented a positive interference on the older Breathalyzer™. However, even for the most extreme exposures, this interference would not be sufficiently high enough to register a false positive unless it occurred in addition to alcohol consumption. Alcohol mixed with a modest dose of MTBE, similar to the exposure received from the refueling of a car, was not sufficient to create a false positive reading. Only high exposure to MTBE coupled with alcohol was able to create a false positive reading of legal intoxication.

The researchers were unable to create a false positive reading with the newer more advanced Alcotest™. This instrument successfully identified the interference invalidating the test.

“The Breathalyzer™ may not be accurate under the most extreme conditions. Occupational exposure to MTBE would need to be considered in any case where this older breath-alcohol analyzer is used to determine legal intoxication especially now that many states are lowering the standard for intoxication to .08 blood alcohol level. We need to anticipate both the socio-legal and public health implications associated with the introduction of new chemicals into consumer products where there is potential for such widespread human exposure,” adds Dr. Buckley.

Timothy J. Buckley, Joachim D. Pleil, James R. Bowyer, J. Michael Davis are the authors of “Evaluation of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) as an interference on commercial breath-alcohol analyzers” published in Forensic Science International.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School Of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School Of Public Health. "Gasoline Additive Interferes With Alcohol Breath Analyzers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 December 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011220081343.htm>.
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School Of Public Health. (2001, December 20). Gasoline Additive Interferes With Alcohol Breath Analyzers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011220081343.htm
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School Of Public Health. "Gasoline Additive Interferes With Alcohol Breath Analyzers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011220081343.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) In rare bipartisan harmony, congressional leaders pushed a $214 billion bill permanently blocking physician Medicare cuts toward House passage Thursday, moving lawmakers closer to resolving a problem that has plagued them for years. (March 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
HIV Outbreak Prompts Public Health Emergency In Indiana

HIV Outbreak Prompts Public Health Emergency In Indiana

Newsy (Mar. 26, 2015) Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he will bring additional state resources to help stop the epidemic. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Indiana Permits Needle Exchange as HIV Cases Skyrocket

Indiana Permits Needle Exchange as HIV Cases Skyrocket

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 26, 2015) Governor Mike Pence declares the recent HIV outbreak in rural Indiana a "public health emergency" and authorizes a short-term needle-exchange program. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins