It’s not often that you need to get drunk for a story.
But hey, how else are you going to test one of the personal breathalyzers that are part of a growing $20 million industry?
Over the past two years, several handheld devices have been introduced to the market and are being used as screening tools by parents to test their kids, employers to check workers using heavy equipment, high school personnel to test students at proms, football games and other functions, and by regular consumers to monitor their drinking.
They’re designed to measure the concentration of alcohol in the human breath, which indicates how much is in the bloodstream. Prices range from $10 for small keychain models to $250, although accuracy varies widely. Results are not admissible in court.
Most consumer models use a semiconductor sensor to detect alcohol, which is less sophisticated technology than what is used in professional devices used by police.
The personal breathalyzers, like the $79.99 BACtrack B70 by KHN Solutions Inc. of San Francisco that I tested, are more practical as screening devices. To get an accurate reading you need to wait 20 minutes after drinking, eating or smoking before blowing into the device. And the manual emphasizes that users not use the BACtrack as a tool to determine whether you should operate a motor vehicle or equipment or perform any other dangerous act.