Excess Use of Hand Sanitizer Can Make You Look Drunk
28 May, 2011 - 06:01pm
Are you one of those cleanliness freaks who keep applying hand sanitizer throughout the day to stay clean and germ free? If yes, then you’re at risk of testing positive during a urinalysis (urine test) for alcohol abuse.
Dr. Gary Reisfield, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida, conducted the study and published the results in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. The researcher came across an article published in the Wall Street Journal about a nurse who said the hand sanitizer she was using accounted for testing positive in the alcohol abuse test. He found similar instances at the Florida Recovery Center, an alcohol rehab site, so he decided to start the study and analyze the results.
The study recruited 11 individuals who did not drink but used the hand sanitizer Purell, which contains 62 percent ethyl alcohol. The participants had to wash their hands every five minutes for 10 hours a day for three consecutive days. To ensure they weren’t drinking, the urine was tested each day at the beginning of the study and also at the end of the day.
At the end of the study the participants underwent the screening test for alcohol abuse. Eight of them had high levels of EtG or ethyl glucuronide, a biomarker used to assess alcohol use. Four of the participants had levels that exceeded 1000 nanograms per milliliter; one of them had EtG levels of 2000 nanograms per milliliter. A level above 500 nanograms per milliliter of ethyl glucuronide indicates that an individual has consumed alcohol in the past few days.
The study shows that normal use of sanitizer, a few times a day, will not result in a false positive for the alcohol abuse test. However, those who are exposed to it all day long such as doctors, nurses or cleaners are at a higher risk of alcohol being absorbed through the skin and thus testing positive on the tests. This also indicates there are other sources like mouthwash and cosmetics that contain a fair amount of alcohol in them that might give false positives.
This particular research shows that the current screening test for alcohol abuse needs to be restructured. It also found that another biomarker EtS or ethyl sulfate remains unaffected by exposure to alcohol through the use of Purell or other high-alcohol sanitizers. Therefore EtS remains a reliable biomarker for alcohol tests but is not commonly used.
This study was conducted on a very small sample, and so it requires a larger sample and duplicating studies. Also only after a thorough testing can a new screening test be designed for alcohol abuse. Hence those people who are needed to abstain from alcohol and don't want their urine tests for alcohol to turn positive, should keep a close watch on the products they are using on a daily basis for alcohol content.