So you’re trying to make an informed decision on which breathalyzer to purchase. If you want to purchase one as a novelty gift for a friend’s party or are looking for one to preemptively stop a friend or yourself from hitting the road after hitting the sauce; this guide is for you. The options are vast and varied, so where do you start? Below are some helpful hints to get you the right breathalyzer, depending on your needs, intentions, and price range.
First off, let’s discuss how a breathalyzer actually takes in your breath, analyzes it, and displays a reading of your alcohol consumption. When you drink alcohol, it absorbs into your bloodstream. Thusly, if one were able to analyze your blood, there would be the possibility of determining how much you’ve drank by its content. The measurement of the alcohol content of your blood is called the “blood alcohol concentration” or BAC. Your BAC can be determined using various techniques that fall into two categories, invasive and non-invasive. An example of an invasive technique would be actually drawing and analyzing blood. Non-invasive techniques would be the analyzation of a sample of breath, saliva, or urine. Breath being the most easily obtained, law enforcement and personal use breathalyzers are the most commonly sold BAC measuring instrument. The breath you blow into a breathalyzer should come from the lowest part of the lungs because that is where the chemical reaction of oxygen absorption and carbon dioxide replacement happens. In this exchange, tiny blood vessels are present, making the contents (i.e., alcohol) available to be read when exhaled.
From law enforcement to fun at a party, people buy alcohol testers for many different reasons. Depending on what you will be using it for, your search criteria may be a combination of different attributes listed below.
- Is it approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), DOT (Department of Transportation), NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)?
- Does it test ‘deep lung’ air and does it record your breathe’s air pressure?
- How is the quality of the alcohol tester in a controlled environment?
- Is the brand of the breathalyzer trusted?
- Can the breathalyzer be recalibrated, and how often?
- Which type of model is the actual internal alcohol tester (semiconductor, fuel cell, or infrared spectroscopy)?
How do these tester types differ? The semiconductor model is the least expensive of the selection. Ranging from novel-grade to professional-grade, semiconductor models can sometimes read false positives with diabetics or people on low-calorie diets. Fuel cell models are the industry standard in handheld, law enforcement breathalyzers. At a higher cost, a fuel cell model will reduce the risk of false positives. Infrared testers are even more expensive, non-handheld, and are mainly used in police labs to analyze evidence.
If you’re buying the alcohol tester for personal use, a semiconductor model is most likely your best bet. ‘Personal use,’ meaning you’d like to test yourself, family, and friends for your own knowledge, be it for fun or proving that someone is unfit to drive. If you’re considering a career in law enforcement and would like to practice with professional grade tools, than a fuel cell may be up your alley; however they are much higher in cost. Please drink responsibly!
David Hook is a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He loves the write, draw, and blog about criminal defense on behalf of Carroll Troberman Criminal Defense in Austin, Tx.
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