Volume 39, Issue 4 (July 1994)
Isopropanol Interference with Breath Alcohol Analysis: A Case Report
The presence of interfering substances, particularly acetone, has historically been a concern in the forensic measurement of ethanol in human breath. Although modern infrared instruments employ methods for distinguishing between ethanol and acetone, false-positive interferant results can arise from instrumental or procedural problems. The case described gives the analytical results of an individual arrested for driving while intoxicated and subsequently providing breath samples in two different BAC Verifier Datamaster infrared breath alcohol instruments. The instruments recorded ethanol results ranging from 0.09 to 0.17 g/210 L with corresponding interferant results of 0.02 to 0.06 g/210 L over approximately three hours. Breath and venous blood specimens collected later were analyzed by gas chromatography and revealed in the blood: isopropanol 0.023 g/100 mL, acetone 0.057 g/100 mL and ethanol 0.076g/100 mL. Qualitative analysis of the breath sample by GCMS also showed the presence of all three compounds. This individual had apparently consumed both ethanol and isopropanol with acetone resulting from the metabolism of isopropanol. An important observation is that the breath test instruments detected the interfering substances on each breath sample and yet they did not show tendencies to report false interferences when compared with statewide interferant data.