Hand Sanitizers, Household Products Contain Same Alcohol as Beverages; May Skew Tests, Says Study

Hand Sanitizers, Household Products Contain Same Alcohol as Beverages; May Skew Tests, Says Study

People who use hand sanitizer frequently, especially formulas containing alcohol, may see unexpected positive results in alcohol use tests, says a University of Florida study. For doctors or surgeons who use alcohol-based sanitizers throughout the day, the consequences could be potentially severe if a false positive result was detected.

Gary Reisfield, M.D., University of Florida College of Medicine, said in a Medical News Today report that a person’s body can’t really tell the difference between the alcohol found in hand sanitizers and that of alcoholic drinks, so people who use sanitizers and other types of mouthwash or cosmetics should be aware of the products’ alcohol content.

According to the study, the overuse of certain hand sanitizers that have alcohol as their base can show a positive result for some kinds of alcohol tests. Furthermore, people who are sensitive to alcohol – and those trying to recover from addiction — should be aware that the alcohol found in hand sanitizers and other household products can be the same as the alcohol type found in alcoholic beverages.

The type of alcohol test most vulnerable to false positive results from hand sanitizers or other formulas is the EtG, which detects substances remaining once the body has processed the alcohol. This type of test can also pick up on alcohol that has been in the body for a duration of time. However, researchers may have also located a biomarker that could help alcohol tests to know the difference between hand exposure to alcohol and the type of exposure found from consuming it.

When the urine was tested from study participants who used alcohol-based sanitizers on their hands about every five minutes during a work shift, typically ten hours, a three-day span showed levels of alcohol in their urine that was similar to levels found in people who consume alcohol. Examining more closely the levels of the biomarker ethyl sulfate may help researchers to know for sure whether a person’s alcohol levels are coming from hand products or actual consumption, and can help to prevent the serious consequences of someone receiving a false positive test for alcohol use.

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