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EtG Alcohol Testing Purpose and Factors Affecting The Results

27 June, 2023

A person holding an empty specimen bottle

Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) alcohol testing is a method used to detect the presence of alcohol in a person’s system. This test serves the purpose of determining whether someone has consumed alcohol. However, several factors can influence its results. These include the ingested amount, time from the last consumption, the person’s metabolism rate, and the ceiling effect. Furthermore, companies commonly use EtG alcohol tests to enforce comprehensive drug and alcohol testing policies.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a condition where people struggle to control their alcohol consumption. It affects many individuals globally and is a leading cause of workplace incidents in New Zealand. As a result, employers use alcohol testing to identify workers who may have alcohol-related problems. It is a common safety practice in industries that carry high risks. This article will present the purpose of EtG testing, the factors affecting its results, and an alternative testing method.

Purpose of EtG Alcohol Testing

EtG alcohol testing detects a substance called EtG, which the body produces when alcohol is consumed. It gives a clear indication of alcohol use over a longer timeframe. EtG can be found in urinehair, or sweat for several days after drinking alcohol. This makes it a useful method for evaluating patterns of alcohol consumption.

The main purpose of EtG testing is to provide dependable and precise proof of recent alcohol use. It has become more common in different settings because it can detect alcohol consumption over a longer period. In workplaces, employers might use the EtG test to identify individuals who might be intoxicated by alcohol. This can help minimise potential dangers and improve overall workplace safety.

In addition, EtG testing has several advantages and uses. Addiction treatment programs can track the progress of patients’ recovery by offering factual proof of alcohol abstinence. This assists clinicians in customising treatment plans for individuals who are overcoming alcohol addiction. Furthermore, it plays a crucial role in forensic investigations. It provides dependable evidence of recent alcohol use in cases involving accidents, crimes, or other incidents.

Products That May Cause False Positives

  • Mouthwash contains alcohol, such as ethanol, which is used as an active ingredient to kill bacteria.
  • Certain cosmetics, like perfumes, colognes, and body sprays, may include alcohol to give them a pleasant scent.
  • Some breath sprays may have alcohol to freshen breath and kill bacteria in the mouth.
  • Hand sanitisers commonly contain alcohol as an active ingredient to kill germs and bacteria on the hands.
  • Specific foods cooked with alcohol as an ingredient, such as dishes prepared with wine, beer, or spirits.
  • Deodorants and antiperspirants may include alcohol-based ingredients to control body odour and perspiration.

 

A person writing on an alcohol test form with urine sample

Factors Affecting the Results of EtG Alcohol Testing

Various factors can affect the results of EtG alcohol testing. Firstly, the amount of alcohol a person ingested. When individuals consume larger amounts of alcohol, it is more likely to show detectable levels of EtG. The concentration of EtG in the body rises with the quantity of alcohol consumed. Hence, this makes it easier to detect and potentially impacts the test results.

Secondly, the time that has passed since the last alcohol consumption affects the detection window of EtG. It can be traced for a longer duration, but the concentration gradually decreases over time. The shorter the time gap, the greater the chance of identifying EtG. Thirdly, individuals with faster metabolism rates eliminate EtG more rapidly. This can lead to lower levels or even undetectable concentrations of EtG.

Lastly, the ceiling effect. The concentration of EtG in the body reaches its maximum level after a certain threshold of alcohol consumption. Beyond this threshold, consuming higher amounts of alcohol does not necessarily result in higher EtG levels. As a result, individuals who drink large quantities of alcohol may exhibit similar EtG levels as those who consumed a moderate amount.

Limitations of ETG

EtG testing has its advantages, but it also has several limitations. Firstly, it requires laboratory analysis. The process involves collecting samples, sending them to a laboratory, and waiting for the analysis to be done. This can cause a delay in getting the results, which can be a drawback in time-sensitive situations.

Secondly, there is a chance of false-positive results. Several factors can cause this, like using mouthwash or eating specific foods. Additionally, commonly used household and industrial products often contain ethanol. The consumer product information database confirms that exposure to such items can potentially result in false positives.

 

A smartphone and a workplace breathalyser

EtG Alcohol Testing: Alternative Method

Companies use EtG alcohol testing methods based on their specific requirements. However, in many workplaces, breath testing is the common method for alcohol screening. It is a fast and dependable way to monitor employees’ alcohol levels. Employers utilise workplace breathalysers to measure Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels by analysing the breath. Employees blow into the device’s mouthpiece and wait for their BAC results.

The BAC represents the percentage of alcohol in the blood. In workplaces that have a strict zero alcohol tolerance policy, employees with a positive BAC may face disciplinary measures. Additionally, workplace breathalysers such as the BACtrack are useful for conducting testing on-site. It can quickly determine if an employee is impaired. Moreover, it allows for frequent alcohol testing as needed.

Workplace breathalysers use fuel cell sensors to provide accurate BAC readings. They use an electrochemical process to break down alcohol in the breath. This process generates small electrical currents relative to the amount of alcohol present and converts them into BAC values. The higher the BAC, the more intoxicated a person is.

Advantages of Workplace Breathalysers

Workplace breathalysers offer several advantages for alcohol testing. First, they eliminate the need for blood samples or other intrusive methods, making them non-invasive. Second, workplace breathalysers allow employers to conduct tests on-site as they are portable. This saves time and maintains productivity since workers don’t have to leave their workplace to perform the test.

Lastly, these devices can remotely monitor employees, especially those off-site. Employers can utilises smartphone breathalysers for real-time monitoring of employees’ alcohol levels, ensuring compliance with alcohol-related policies. Moreover, remote monitoring eliminates the need for additional equipment or infrastructure in off-site locations.

Conclusion

EtG alcohol testing serves the purpose of providing reliable evidence of recent alcohol use over an extended period. It has many uses in different situations. However, several factors can influence the outcomes. These include alcohol quantity, time since last consumption, alcohol metabolism rate, and the ceiling effect. Additionally, EtG testing has limitations, such as the need for laboratory analysis and the possibility of false-positive results.

Companies often use breath testing as an alternative to EtG testing. Workplace breathalysers, like the SHIELD Express from Breathalysers New Zealand, analyse breath to measure the BAC. They provide a non-invasive way to test alcohol levels on-site quickly. Thus, it allows employers to enforce zero-tolerance policies and monitor alcohol levels. Additionally, these devices use fuel cell sensors for accurate BAC readings. Moreover, they offer benefits such as convenience, time-saving, and the ability to monitor through smartphone breathalysers remotely.

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