Hand Sanitizer and False Positive BAC Readings

hand sanitizer
How often do you use hand sanitizer? Some new studies are cautioning those who use the substance on a regular basis that it could result in a false positive blood alcohol reading. Just how much hand sanitizer do you have to use for it to impact a BAC test? One study reported, “the participants had to wash their hands every five minutes for 10 hours a day for three consecutive days.” If you work outdoors, with the public, or in the medical field, this probably doesn’t seem that excessive to you.

In fact, it was a nurse who inspired the initial investigation into the subject. She was being monitored for alcohol dependence and failed a urinalysis during her treatment process. As it turned out, she hadn’t been drinking alcohol; rather, she was using a substantial amount of hand sanitizer regularly. Some may be surprised to learn of this possibility, but for those whose careers can be put in jeopardy, it is an important factor to keep in mind.

Aside from your personal use of hand sanitizer, there is one other potential user to be aware of. Many of us make a regular effort to keep our hands clean, and police officers are no exception. Like many well-meaning individuals trying to stay sanitary while on the go, police officers at times use hand sanitizer to disinfect their hands. This action seems harmless, even commendable, but the unintended effects can be devastating for those suspected of a DWI.

We have seen an increased number of false positive blood alcohol tests that are linked to alcohol-based sanitizer residue on officers’ hands. Studies have shown this residue can impact the reading of the breathalyzer and falsely indicate the presence of alcohol for up to 3 minutes after it has been applied. The same is true if someone in the medical profession is administering the test – if alcohol based hand sanitizer has been used recently enough it can absolutely impact test results.

As you can see, there are several factors that can interfere with a breathalyzer exam, or even a urinalysis; however, these are just a few of the potential factors that can impact the drug or alcohol screening process. If you have questions about this topic or would like additional information about the reliability of drug or alcohol testing as it pertains to your case, contact us today.

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