Excessive use of hand sanitiser could affect your blood alcohol level!

We all are using hand sanitisers far more than ever before Covid became the new norm.

Have you ever considered that using a hand sanitiser could actually impact upon your blood alcohol level?  And raise a whole new issue. It’s called the Hand Sanitiser Defence.

“Can hand sanitiser applied to your skin affect a breath alcohol test?”  The answer is probably not. However….

A 2006 study amongst Australian health care workers tested this very issue.  Twenty workers applied a hand sanitiser with 70% ethanol thirty times in one hour, mimicking the use in Intensive Care Units. One to two minutes after the final exposure, six of the workers showed a slight increase in breath-ethanol levels between 0.001% and 0.0025%.  After about 15 minutes, all the health care workers breath-ethanol levels had returned to zero.

Other studies have shown that the use of common alcohol-based hand sanitiser may even cause false positive readings with a standard hospital breathalyser when the operator uses the hand sanitiser correctly. Readings are further elevated if more sanitiser is used or if it’s not allowed to dry appropriately.

We all are aware that most of us carry bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitisers in our motor vehicles or are continually using them at the supermarket and at work.There are professions such as health care workers and others who are required to use significant amounts of hand sanitiser in their daily work.

The roadside breathalyser machines are extremely sensitive.  In the good old days, we use to blow into the machine, now we just talk near the machine. Be cautious because if you have used hand sanitiser very close to the time you are handed the breathalyser in your car, there still may be some fumes and alcohol remaining on your hands.  This could affect your roadside test.  These machines are so good they can detect alcohol from passengers in the back seat who have been drinking.

Also, the operator of a breathalyser hand-held unit or a breathalyse machine at the Police Station may also have used sanitiser on their hands or alcohol rubs in cleaning the machine.

Obviously, further investigations need to be conducted to determine if the hand sanitiser can affect your alcohol reading and whether the use of gloves diminishes the effect of ethanol-based hand sanitisers on breathalyser machines.

It is up the driver of any vehicle to be able to prove and establish the “sanitiser defence”.   

Currently, any defence of this nature would be treated with scepticism from the Court unless there is scientific proof and a connection between the use of hand sanitiser, the way the sample was taken, how the machines are cleaned, whether gloves are used, the time between using hand sanitiser and the breath test all need to be taken into account when considering whether or not a defence of this nature should be embarked upon.

So, the moral of this story is, “Don’t hold your breath in relation to the hand sanitiser defence”.

James Paton.

The legal team at Paton Hooke Lawyers & Conveyancers have consideration experience in relation to traffic matters, and especially drink driving disqualifications.  If you need any help, please do not hesitate to contact us on 6551 0355.

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