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.
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.
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