How breathalyzers work: a general overview

Breathalyzers are a nightmare for drunken drivers but it has become a relief for traffics and common people as an efficient weapon against alcoholism and drunken driving. It has estimated that only In USA 55% road accidents happen due to drunken drivers fault. With Breathalyzers in hand now the drunken drivers can be instantly detected. But is it the only way Breathalyzers Work? Before we peep into the other uses of Breathalyzers, let’s see how it works actually.


How it works

As implied by name Breathalyzers detects the trace of alcohol in someone’s breath. It is a faster process than blood testing or urine culture of a suspected driver and that is why traffic authorities use this technology more to identify drunken drivers on road.

Alcohol that a person consumes can be traced in the breath because the alcohol gets absorbed in a body being ingested from the mouth to throat, and then via stomach and intestines, it reached into the bloodstream. Alcohol never gets digested on its absorption or it gets chemically changed while it gets mixed in the bloodstream even after the concerned person stops drinking. As the blood runs all the way through the lungs, a major portion of the alcohol moves across the membranes of alveoli into the air as alcohol is extremely volatile by nature.


How is alcohol calculated?

As the alcohol density in the breath is directly linked to that in the bloodstream, it is possible to calculate the figure of the BAC by checking alcohol on the breath. The ratio of breath and alcohol in the blood is 2,100 to 1. This means that 2,100 ml of alveolar air contain the same quantity of alcohol as contained in 1ml of blood.


The legal scale for intoxication by alcohol is .10 all over the USA since long, but in recent times many states have introduced to the .08 standard. The federal government has directed all states to reduce the legal limit. According to American Medical Association, an adult may turn impaired if his blood alcohol level hits the scale of.05. The standard .08 deciphers that there is .08 gram of alcohol at every 100 ml of blood.


Different types of Breathalyzers

Different types of Breathalyzers are used for a testing breath of suspected drunken people. Presently, there are three major variants of breath alcohol testing devices, and they work on diverse principles. These three are:

  • Breathalyzer – the device uses an exclusive chemical reaction involving alcohol and it produces a specific color change getting the trace of alcohol in breath
  • Intoxilyzer – This kind of device can detect alcohol by using infrared (IR) spectroscopy method
  • Alcosensor III or IV –  The device can detect  a specific chemical response of alcohol in a special fuel cell

Regardless the type, each Breathalyzer device is made of a mouthpiece, a tube via which the recipient blows air, and an adjacent sample chamber where the air enters. The rest of the output may vary depending on the type of the device used for testing.


Other uses of Breathalyzers

Breathalyzers can be used for detecting alcoholic consumption of patients going through the process of getting rid of alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction is not only bad for physical health; it is equally bad for psychological stability and emotional balance off an individual irrespective of age or occupation. In the USA alcohol rehabs are also using Breathalyzers for analyzing the alcohol resistance of their patients in an amicable way.

This is how Breathalyzers work and it helps in restricting alcohol intake of alcoholics. The device has got extreme popularity as it is a faster way to detect alcoholic addiction and it is extremely easy to use.

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