Hand sanitizer can cause a false positive breathalyzer test

If the tester immediately administered the breathalyzer after using ethanol-based hand sanitizer (either foam or gel), the test produced a result of about 0.15 g/dL, which is nearly two times the legal alcohol limit of 0.08 g/dL. The breathalyzer continued to produce a false positive result up to three minutes after the tester used hand sanitizer. (If the tester let his hands dry or put on gloves, the breathalyzer barely detected any alcohol.)

The implications of this research are clear: A police officer or healthcare provider should not use ethanol hand sanitizers if they are to perform a breathalyzer test. Similarly, employers with “zero tolerance” drug and alcohol policies may want to keep hand sanitizers away from employees who perform spot drug tests. Obviously, artificially inflating the results is not likely to be in the best interest of the person being tested.