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Author Topic: Chewing gum doubles BAC on breathalyzer
snopes
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Comment: My nephew was stopped on New Year's Eve and was required to take a breath
test to register his BAC. The results came back above the legal limit of
08 in this state. He swears he had only had four beers the whole night,
but that he had been chewing gum - Orbit, Dentyne Ice - one of those
really strong mint gums. My nephew insists that the arresting officer
told him that the police love when people chew those gums after drinking
because it doubles the BAC that registers on the test. So if he
registered .10, then really it should only have been .05 and he was safe
(or at least legal) to drive.

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Roadie
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And that underaged girl in the backseat? I heard that if you chew one of those really strong mint gums, you can legally double her age. So even though her middle-school ID said 11, it really should have been 22.

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Avril
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Actually, I've heard a similar rumor--I can't remember if it was lemon drops or Coca-cola (as in, either one) or both in combination, registering whether or not you had alcohol in the system.

As for this guy, four beers and he's driving!? No sympathy here.

Avril

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Chimera
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While I'm not buying the OPs comment I have noticed that some strong gums list something like "sugar alcohol" as an ingredient or something like that (I'll admit I don't know what that meant and I don't have a pack in front of me right now. I just have a bad habit of reading all lables on packages and wondering about what certain listings mean.). I'd actually think a mouth wash containing alcohol would have more (but still a slight and temporary) effect but it might give a nominal reading.

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What is the use of women?"
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Avril
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On this forum, a poster says the mint thing happened to him.

But most of what turns up when I search is counteracting the myth that mints can mask alcohol on the breath. [Confused]

Avril

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EmeraldCityAlchemist
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Okay, I'll bet that some gums and breath fresheners will register on a BAC test, since they are after all right there in your mouth, but for a gum to have enough alcohol-like substances to DOUBLE a BAC test, it would have to have a LOT. Same goes with mouthwash and Binaca-type breath fresheners, although I bet they would register on the BAC for a short while after using them. My guess is, the four beers are what put him over the limit, unless your nephew weighs 350 pounds.

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Four Kitties
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quote:
Originally posted by EmeraldCityAlchemist:
My guess is, the four beers are what put him over the limit, unless your nephew weighs 350 pounds.

[hijack]
ECA, when snopes posts something that begins with "Comment:" it means it's mail he's received, not a personal anecdote. It's not snopes' nephew, it's the nephew of someone who wrote in.
[/hijack]

I now return you to your regularly-scheduled thread, already in progress.

Four Kitties

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Joostik
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quote:
Originally posted by Chimera:
I have noticed that some strong gums list something like "sugar alcohol" as an ingredient

Most (or all) sugar-free gums are sweetened with so-called "sugar acohols": Sorbitol, Xylitol, Maltitol, or similar names ending in -ol. They are complex alcohols. Ethanol, or plain ordinary "alcohol", is a (the most) simple alcohol.

So, chemically speaking, "sugar alcohols" are "alcohols" but much more complex than the alcohol found in your drinks. I don't know if they would (in principle) be detected by an apparatus designed to detect Ethanol, but even if they did, the concentration of any of these "sugar alcohols" would be far, far lower than the alcohol content of any drink. Also, because of their widespread use in gums it would make all alcohol testing unreliable if they did.

And while you don't get drunk from "sugar alcohols" they do have another unfortunate effect when you consume too much of them: you can get violent diarrhoea...

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Squishy0405
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quote:
And while you don't get drunk from "sugar alcohols" they do have another unfortunate effect when you consume too much of them: you can get violent diarrhoea... [/QB]
I saw that on an episode of house [Big Grin]
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Dark Blue
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I do know that at least some breath spray mints do contain substances that do effect PBTs and Intoxilyzers. In fact we use these when demonstrating or testing certain functions of the PBTs and Intoxilyzers. I would certainly believe these substances could be found in some gums as some of these seem to be really strong.

However......

Most recent models of BAC testing devices are able to detect that it is not a correct sample and does not containe only breath air. They then give an indicator that the test is not valid and do not display a BAC. If it is the intoxilyzer test, a 15-20 minute deprivation period should proceed the test (this is a time when the person is not allowed to have or put anything in their mouth and is monitored) so the substances in the mouth spray or gum are no longer in the mouth and allow for a correct sample to be taken. A PBT used on the spot should not be the only indicatior but FSTs appearence and behaviour should also be used in determining a persons impairment. If I give someone a PBT that says they are a .10 and tey were just chewing gum, but they do great on the FSTs, and do not appear or act impaired, I'm not arresting them just cause the PBT says they are a .10. DUI equipment and investigations are a bit more complicated than Damn my Trident Spearmint got me into a whole heap of trouble.

quote:
the arresting officer
told him that the police love when people chew those gums after drinking
because it doubles the BAC that registers on the test.

Yes nothing pleases me more than arresting someone who isn't impaired because they chewed gum and got a higher reading when I could be out getting someone who is actually impaired and really imposes a danger on my city.

The unfortunate reality is that I don't have to arrest people falsly on some minor technicality for DUI, I can find plenty of real true DUIs on pretty much any day.

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pilchik
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I remember a news article about Fisherman's Friend lozenges setting off a breathalyzer:
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_1552495.html?menu=news.quirkies

Now here is a forum discussing how it will fool a breathalyzer into giving a lower reading. There are many forums (mostly car ones - go figure), and blogs about how to use Fisherman's Friend and other strong mints to beat the machine.
http://calaisturbo.com.au/showthread.php?t=22630

Now here is a very difficult to read article that also gives things that are believed to make the readings higher or lower (including a bit on diabetes). Near the bottom is a paragraph that describes "Mythbusters" trying to see if they could beat a breathalyzer by using various products - all were ineffective.
http://www.taxgloss.com/Tax-Genericized_Trademark_A_-_C-/Breathalyzer.html

I imagine many things could possibly affect the readings to a slight degree but doubling or halving the level is probably a bit of an exaggeration.

Edited: to fix up an incomplete sentence.

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Brandi
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It might be fun for Mythbusters to revisit breathalyzer myths, giving an excuse for Adam and Jamie (or more likely, the interns) to get pleasantly hammered...
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Mickey is a Hanukkah Bush
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They already have, Brandi

They found that every "trick" won't work.

quote:
Episode 6: Lightning Strikes Tongue Piercing, Tree Cannon, Beat the Breath Test
In this episode, Jamie and Adam test the limits of a homemade tree cannon. Their interest comes from the story of a small town in Hungary where the inhabitants supposedly built a working cannon out of a tree. Or maybe Jamie and Adam just want to blow things up ... according to the story, the contraption accidentally exploded with deadly results. Then they get jiggy with a Breathalyzer, testing the theory that very drunk people are lucid enough to fool technology. Oh, and can Adam's tongue piercing withstand the electric force of a lightning bolt? We'll see

They did, however, find that breath mints DO raise a person's breathalyzer results

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Black Belt and Socks
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quote:
Most (or all) sugar-free gums are sweetened with so-called "sugar acohols": Sorbitol, Xylitol, Maltitol, or similar names ending in -ol. They are complex alcohols. Ethanol, or plain ordinary "alcohol", is a (the most) simple alcohol.

*pendantic hijack*

Actually, methanol in the simplest alcohol, CH3OH. Ethanol is CH3C2OH.

*end pendantic hijack*

I have a habit of using Sweet Breath® breath drops as my personal mouth hygeine tool. The first ingredient listed on the label is SD Alcohol, a denatured form of ethanol. If tested right after popping a drop, it definately would increase my BA level.

BB&S

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Griffin at the Maul
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quote:
Originally posted by Tinkerhell/Mickeyisagyrl:
They already have, Brandi

They found that every "trick" won't work.

They did, however, find that breath mints DO raise a person's breathalyzer results

Do you mean that they found that NONE of the tricks worked? I seem to recall that it was the mouthwash that increased the reading, if used immediately before the test, but nothing else affected the reading.

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Ms Congeniality
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Did they try Peanut Butter? I have heard from a cop that peanut butter gives a false low reading.

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LittleDuck
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In defense of Brandi, she said "Revisit" the myth on Mythbusters, Mickey. The episode you mentioned is the only time they have done the breathalyzer test, AFAIK. In the newer seasons they have revisited several myths due to audience response (most often people claiming something was done wrong or they didn't take something into account). I would also be interested in them revisiting the breathalyzer, possibly using mints and gum ONLY, without drinking alcohol at all.

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diddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Ms. Congeniality:
Did they try Peanut Butter? I have heard from a cop that peanut butter gives a false low reading.

Im pretty sure they did. But whats the point. How exactly is Peanut butter going to decrease the ammount of alcohol found in your lungs? Its a breath teast. THese kind of tests have nothing to do with eating anything. Mouth wash does have alcohol it it though so that would affect it.

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Ms Congeniality
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quote:
Originally posted by diddy:
quote:
Originally posted by Ms. Congeniality:
Did they try Peanut Butter? I have heard from a cop that peanut butter gives a false low reading.

Im pretty sure they did. But whats the point. How exactly is Peanut butter going to decrease the ammount of alcohol found in your lungs? Its a breath teast. THese kind of tests have nothing to do with eating anything. Mouth wash does have alcohol it it though so that would affect it.
I asked my friend about this and this was apparently true 12 years ago. [Roll Eyes] And it was only effective for a short period.

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Steph
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The point that keeps being missed is that they give you a controlled deprivation period after removing any objects from your mouth before you take the actual breath test. These gums are not going to continue to influence your alcohol levels that long. Also the PBT does not hold up in court. SO the main idea would be to not drink and drive... period.
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diddy
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And even if they cant get a reasonable breath test and they still think you are drinking, they can haul you in for a blood test which is virtually unbeatable.

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W.W.F.S.M.D?
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NZUL
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quote:
Do you mean that they found that NONE of the tricks worked?
Yes, but how likely is it they'd have broadcast a trick that they found did work? Wouldn't that have some kind of legal implications? "Here kiddies, here's how to beat the alcohol tests".

I think that IF they found anything that worked, they didn't tell us about it, so naturally, everything they tried (and showed), failed.

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badvegas77632
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i have a friend that is a cop. he told me everybody tries the and the penny under the tongue thing. he told me the people who tried the gum one always get double what they have. the police force has been told to ask them if they have had gum in the past 30 min or so.

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gnome
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quote:
Originally posted by Little_Duck:
In defense of Brandi, she said "Revisit" the myth on Mythbusters, Mickey. The episode you mentioned is the only time they have done the breathalyzer test, AFAIK. In the newer seasons they have revisited several myths due to audience response (most often people claiming something was done wrong or they didn't take something into account). I would also be interested in them revisiting the breathalyzer, possibly using mints and gum ONLY, without drinking alcohol at all.

Revisit enough, and it's like curing hiccups... everyone gets to have the guy try something weird [Smile]
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Franny
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Anyone with a little scientific bent might enjoy reading about how breathalizers really work: http://science.howstuffworks.com/breathalyzer.htm. You can get way more technical at: http://www.science.org.au/nova/060/060print.htm.

Looking at the science it is no surprise that none of the 'tricks' offered by various websites work and make me sketpical about any claims that gum/mints would increase your measurements - except in a possibly transitory manner. But, as discussed by our friends in blue no cop is going to administer a test to someone snapping away at their gum. There are standards that are established for LEGAL reasons and good cops don't tend to violate them (I raise my shields against any "A cop validated my rights" responses) because they get in trouble.

Bottom line for me is that if you have to worry about any of the above you shouldn't be driving. Please call a cab, call AA, call someone.

PS. With all the talk about mythbusters please look at episode 33 (http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/episode/episode_03.html) both testers FAILED the driving portion of their test while driving with a BAC UNDER the legal limit (in CA 0.08). Driving Buzzed is Driving Drunk.

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diddy
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quote:
Originally posted by NZUL:
quote:
Do you mean that they found that NONE of the tricks worked?
Yes, but how likely is it they'd have broadcast a trick that they found did work? Wouldn't that have some kind of legal implications? "Here kiddies, here's how to beat the alcohol tests".

I think that IF they found anything that worked, they didn't tell us about it, so naturally, everything they tried (and showed), failed.

If that was the case they wouldnt have aired the whole thing. They tried all teh popular ones. They really dont work. Mythbusters doesnt lie about their results.

Lets face the bottom line. You cannot beat the breath test. Dont drink and drive. It is a horribly dtupid thing to do anyway.The cops are alot smarter than a drunk is. They know you habe been drinking before they even pull you over. The test is just the nail in the coffin and nnot the last step.

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W.W.F.S.M.D?
But this image of Bush as some sort of Snidely Whiplash tying the fair maiden to the railroad tracks is beyond the pale. - Joe Bentley

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Ulkomaalainen
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quote:
Originally posted by Black Belt and Socks:
*pendantic hijack*

Actually, methanol in the simplest alcohol, CH3OH. Ethanol is CH3C2OH.

*end pendantic hijack*



You of course mean CH3COH. The other one would be CH5C2OH, Propanol (Or was it Butanol? I always mix those up) [Wink]



As for "beating the breathalyzer": this ain't a bl...y game. I understand that in any fair society a suspect should have the right to lie without additional punishment, but this "The bad thing is not that I am drunk and cannot drive properly anymore, but that the breathalyzer score is too high" attitude makes me want to kick some body part of choice.

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pauliez
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Eat any sugar alcohol lately?
If you've looked lately at the “Nutrition Facts” panel on a pack of sugar-free gum or candy, you might be surprised to see that it contains “sugar alcohol.” Don't let the name fool you. These ingredients were given this consumer-friendly name because part of their structure resembles sugar and part is similar to alcohol.

Not one in the same
Don't be confused. Although they share a similar name, sugar alcohol and alcoholic beverages do not have the same chemical structure. Sugar alcohol does not contain ethanol, which is found in alcoholic beverages.

What is sugar alcohol?
Sugar alcohols, also know as polyols, are ingredients used as sweeteners and bulking agents. They occur naturally in foods and come from plant products such as fruits and berries. As a sugar substitute, they provide fewer calories (about a half to one-third less calories) than regular sugar. This is because they are converted to glucose more slowly, require little or no insulin to be metabolized and don't cause sudden increases in blood sugar. This makes them popular among individuals with diabetes; however, their use is becoming more common by just about everyone. You may be consuming them and not even know it.

Identifying them
Common sugar alcohols are mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH). Sugar alcohols are not commonly used in home food preparation, but are found in many processed foods. Food products labeled “sugar-free,” including hard candies, cookies, chewing gums, soft drinks and throat lozenges often consist of sugar alcohols. They are frequently used in toothpaste and mouthwash too.

Check carbohydrates
So why are sugar alcohols used so often? For one thing, they help to provide the sweet flavor to food in many products marketed towards individuals with diabetes. But, beware! There is often the misconception that all sugar alcohol-containing products are “free foods.” Some of these products may still contain significant amounts of carbohydrates. It's important to check the food label for the total carbohydrate contained in the product and talk with a registered dietitian to determine how it will best fit into your meal plan.

If a manufacturer uses the term “sugar free” or “no added sugar,” they must list the grams of sugar alcohols. If more than one sugar alcohol is used in a product, the “Nutrition Facts” panel will list the amount of sugar alcohol it contains under the total carbohydrate. If just one sugar alcohol is used, the label will list its specific name, for example, “mannitol” or “hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.”

Pros and cons of sugar alcohols
On the positive side, sugar alcohols contain less calories (1.5 - 3 calories per gram) than sugar (4 calories per gram), and they do not cause tooth decay like sugar does. Therefore, many “sugar-free” gums including Trident® and Extra® are made with sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols also add texture to foods, retain moisture better and prevent foods from browning when they are heated.

Unfortunately, there are some negatives associated with sugar alcohols. The most common side effect is the possibility of bloating and diarrhea when sugar alcohols are eaten in excessive amounts. There is also some evidence that sugar alcohols, much like fructose (natural fruit sugar) in fruit and fruit juice can cause a “laxative effect.” Weight gain has been seen when these products are overeaten. The American Diabetes Association claims that sugar alcohols are acceptable in a moderate amount but should not be eaten in excess. Some people with diabetes, especially Type I diabetics, have found that their blood sugars rise if sugar alcohols are eaten in uncontrolled amounts.

Sugar alcohols vs. artificial sweeteners
Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin (Sweet & Low®) and aspartame (Equal® or Nutrasweet®), are not one and the same. One difference between the two types of sugar substitutes is that the artificial sweeteners contain zero calories whereas sugar alcohols contain about 2.6 calories per gram. Another issue is diabetes management. Artificial sweeteners do not contain carbohydrates so they do not cause blood sugar to elevate, whereas, sugar alcohols have some effect on blood sugar. Overall, both can be useful in diabetes management when used properly.

Forms of sugar alcohol
Mannitol occurs naturally in pineapples, olives, asparagus, sweet potatoes and carrots. It is extracted from seaweed for use in food manufacturing. Mannitol has 50-70 percent of the relative sweetness of sugar, which means more must be used to equal the sweetness of sugar. Mannitol lingers in the intestines for a long time and therefore often causes bloating and diarrhea.

Sorbitol is found naturally in fruits and vegetables. It is manufactured from corn syrup. Sorbitol has only 50 percent of the relative sweetness of sugar which means twice as much must be used to deliver a similar amount of sweetness to a product. It has less of a tendency to cause diarrhea compared to mannitol. It is often an ingredient in sugar-free gums and candies.

Xylitol is also called “wood sugar” and occurs naturally in straw, corncobs, fruit, vegetables, cereals, mushrooms and some cereals. Xylitol has the same relative sweetness as sugar. It is found in chewing gums.

Lactitol has about 30-40 percent of sugar's sweetening power, but its taste and solubility profile resembles sugar so it is often found in sugar-free ice cream, chocolate, hard and soft candies, baked goods, sugar-reduced preserves and chewing gums.

Isomalt is 45 - 65 percent as sweet as sugar and does not tend to lose its sweetness or break down during the heating process. Isomalt absorbs little water, so it is often used in hard candies, toffee, cough drops and lollipops.

Maltitol is 75 percent as sweet as sugar. It is used in sugar-free hard candies, chewing gum, chocolate-flavored desserts, baked goods and ice cream because it gives a creamy texture to foods.

Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH) are produced by the partial hydrolysis of corn. HSH are nutritive sweeteners that provide 40 - 90 percent of the sweetness of sugar. HSH do not crystallize and are used extensively in confections, baked goods and mouthwashes.

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Cowboy Joe
Deck the Malls


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Does gum still increase your BAC if the gum is ABC? [dunce]

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"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." -George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

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abby 68
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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Recently beng stopped for drunk driving & taken in for a breathalyzer I would say there was no way to beat the test. It would depend on the attitude of the officers ..........


P.S. I was found to be twice wayyyyyyy below the limit.period [fish]

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Finite Fourier Alchemy
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by Ulkomaalainen:
quote:
Originally posted by Black Belt and Socks:
*pendantic hijack*

Actually, methanol in the simplest alcohol, CH3OH. Ethanol is CH3C2OH.

*end pendantic hijack*



You of course mean CH3COH. The other one would be CH5C2OH, Propanol (Or was it Butanol? I always mix those up) [Wink]



Methanol: CH3OH
Ethanol: CH3CH2OH
Isopropyl alcohol: CH3CHOHCH3

BB&S just missed typing the "H" in ethanol.



These simple alcohols all have some level of intoxicating effect (I think methyl is much stronger than ethyl, which is slightly stronger than isopropyl) and are metabolized in similar fashion, but the metabolic byproducts of methyl and isopropyl are much more dangerous to your health, either because of their higher toxicity, or because they are not as readily metabolized to less toxic chemicals.

Ethyl alcohol -> Acetaldehyde -> Acetic acid -> CO2 and water

Methyl alcohol -> Formaldehyde -> Formic acid -> CO2 and water

Isopropyl alcohol -> Acetone -> ?? -> CO2 and water

IIRC, most (or maybe half) of the isopropyl generally doesn't even make it into the bloodstream; it's too large to easily be absorbed through the stomach walls, so stomach acids and enzymes form quite a lot of it into acetone while it's still in the digestive tract. Then the acetone starts vaporizing in the intestines, causing severe gastric distress. Whatever amount of isopropyl gets into the bloodstream gets dehydrogenated to acetone, and goes through a couple possible routes before it's fully metabolized.

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Thinking about New England / missing old Japan

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Koshka
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by diddy:
quote:
Originally posted by NZUL:
quote:
Do you mean that they found that NONE of the tricks worked?
Yes, but how likely is it they'd have broadcast a trick that they found did work? Wouldn't that have some kind of legal implications? "Here kiddies, here's how to beat the alcohol tests".

I think that IF they found anything that worked, they didn't tell us about it, so naturally, everything they tried (and showed), failed.

If that was the case they wouldnt have aired the whole thing. They tried all teh popular ones. They really dont work. Mythbusters doesnt lie about their results.
I know there were some things they tested but didn't have time to show -- I've got the DVD of that episode, and if you run the tail end of the episode slowly you can see more things with breathalizer output cards on them than we actually saw the guys using. I'll see if I can freeze-frame on my computer and get BAC readings for them. No peanut butter, though.

During season one, the producer posted information on each myth on alt.folklore.urban . According to his post there, both Adam and Jamie flunked field sobriety tests given as part of this experiment. So, even if they'd found something that would minimize a breathalyzer reading, the cops would have had cause to invite them for a blood test (had this been an actual case of DUI).

EDIT: OK, ran through that scene on my computer. Tested but not shown were breath strips, cough drops, breath spray/Binaca, and chewing gum. Adam did the gum test, and got a reading of .11 -- which is exactly what he scored on the control test (nothing done to try to screw up the machine). I didn't recognize the type of gum used for the test, but offhand I'd say most of the original commenter's nephew's reading was from his beer intake rather than his gum intake.

Just to be complete, Jamie did the other three tests. His control test was .09, he got a .11 on the breath strips and cough drops and a .13 on the breath spray.

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