Volume 34, Issue 4 (July 1989)
Observations on the Specificity of Breath-Alcohol Analyzers Used for Clinical and Medicolegal Purposes
This paper deals with the application of three kinds of breath-alcohol analyzer for clinical and medicolegal purposes. The limited specificity for analyzing ethanol in expired breath has given misleading information with potential serious consequences. Three different methods of alcohol analysis are reported: semiconductor sensing (Alcotest 7310), electrochemical fuel cell (Alcolmeter SM-1), and infrared (IR) absorptiometry (IR Intoximeter 3000). Methanol could not be distinguished from ethanol with any of these breath-test instruments. When nonspecific techniques of ethanol analysis are used, the results must be considered with caution when interfering substances expelled in breath cannot be excluded.