Remember that "new car smell"? The great scent inside of that new car you bought a couple of years ago? It could get you charged with DUI…. Consider an excerpt from the Reuters news agency (Sydney, December 9, 2001):
"Australian scientists have warned that the reassuring smell of a new car actually contains high levels of toxic air emissions which can make drivers ill. A study by Australia’s main scientific body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), found high levels of toxic emissions in cars for up to six months and longer after they leave the showroom… The toxic emissions include benzene, a cancer-causing toxin; acetone, a mucosal irritant; ethylbenzene, a systemic toxic agent; and xylene isomers, a foetal development toxic agent…."
So what has this got to do with breath tests? Well, one of the compounds you were actually smelling was acetone. As has been discussed in earlier posts ("Why Breathlyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol"), acetone is one of many chemical compounds which Breathalyzers will mistakenly report as alcohol. See the reasearch reported in such scientific articles as "The Likelihood of Acetone Interference in Breath Alcohol Measurements", 3 Alcohol, Drugs and Driving 1, and "Excretion of Low-Molecular Weight Volatile Substances in Human Breath: Focus on Endogenous Ethanol", 9 Journal of Analytical Toxicology 246.
And no, you don’t have to drink the stuff. Simply absorbing it through your skin or inhaling it can result in measurable levels of the compound in your body for hours or even days, which will be continually expelled in the breath….. and possibly into a judge-and-jury breathalyzer.