A couple of posts ago, I talked about the ingestion of hand sanitizers as an alternative to your typical alcoholic drink as a means to get intoxicated. Like the woman I mentioned in that post, it could be very easy to have a blood alcohol content above 0.08 if you’ve had a few squirts of hand sanitizer to get that buzz.
What if you’re not ingesting the hand sanitizer, but rather using as intended? Is it possible for the body to absorb the alcohol in measurable amounts if you’re using the hand sanitizer to clean your hands?
According to a 2011 study from the University of Florida, the answer is yes.
The study tested the urinary alcohol levels of participants who used hand sanitizer to clean their hands every five to ten minutes for a ten hour period over the span of three consecutive days. Urine testing tests for longer exposure to alcohol over a longer period of time whereas breathalyzers and blood tests test for acute alcohol exposure. Why would someone need to clean their hands every five to ten minutes? Well, this regiment of sanitization is comparable to what is required of health care professionals like doctors and nurses.
The results were that nearly all participants tested positive for alcohol in amounts similar to drinking a moderate amounts of alcohol. Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulfate (EtS) are the metabolites which remain in a person’s system after long term alcohol exposure and these were the metabolites that were detected in the participants. These findings are particularly important because, although urine testing will not show acute intoxication, urine testing is the common method of alcohol testing in the work place and in the court system.
So if you’re a doctor or a nurse and are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence, be sure to request a blood or a breath test because the Purell you’ve been slathering on your hands 120 times a day may cause you to look as if you’ve had a few drinks during your shift.