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San Diego DUI Attorney: Breathing Paint or Gas Fumes Raises Breathalyzer Results

Exposure to the fumes of many common products can cause high blood alcohol readings by breathalyzers

2009 | Nov 10

San Diego, California, Oct. 5 -- San Diego DUI lawyer Lawrence Taylor, known as the “Dean of DUI attorneys”, claims that exposure to many the fumes of many common products, such as paint, glue, thinner or gasoline, can cause breathalyzers to register high blood alcohol readings in drunk driving suspects hours later – even with no alcohol in their bodies.

Scientific studies have clearly proven this defect in breath alcohol machines, Taylor says. The problem involves the inability of these devices to distinguish alcohol from hundreds of other chemical compounds.

The DUI attorney cites one such study, “The Response of the Intoxilyzer 4011AS to a Number of Possible Interfering Substances”, 35(4) Journal of Forensic Sciences 797, in which researchers found numerous common substances which were falsely reported by police breath alcohol machines as alcohol. These included methyl ethyl ketone, which is used in lacquers, paint removers, cements, adhesives, celluloid and cleaning fluids. Another compound, toluene, also caused false high readings and is commonly used in paints, lacquers, varnishes and glues. Yet another was isopropanol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol. Fumes from these chemicals can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Taylor, who wrote the best-selling DUI legal textbook Drunk Driving Defense, cites another scientific study in which researchers performed tests on a professional painter who was exposed to lacquer fumes under controlled conditions. In the first test, he sprayed paint in a room for 20 minutes, wearing a protective mask; his blood and breath were then tested. Although the blood test showed no presence of alcohol, a standard DUI police breath machine (the Intoxilyzer 5000) indicated a reading of .075% blood-alcohol concentration -- very close to the legal limit of .08%. “Lacquer Fumes and the Intoxilyzer”, 12 Journal of Analytical Toxicology 168.

Yet another scientific study demonstrated that diethyl ether, found in some plastics and automotive products, can be inhaled and detected by breathalyzers as alcohol. “Diethyl Ether Interference with Infrared Breath Analysis”, 16 Journal of Analytical Toxicology 166. The researchers concluded that “the possibility of interference with an alcohol reading by ether or by other substances may therefore render prosecution more difficult if not impossible”.

The San Diego DUI attorney warns that the next time you are painting a room in your house, you might think twice about getting behind the wheel of your car for a few hours.

For more information, visit the law firm’s website at http://sandiego.duicentral.com. Inquiries may be directed to the firm’s San Diego office: 69.232.5034.


With a national reputation and the highest professional ratings, The Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor has specialized in DUI defense exclusively for 29 years. The firm’s California DUI defense attorneys serve clients statewide from offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside and San Francisco.

Daniel Stanton

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor have an average experience of 18 years; the firm has specialized only in DUI defense since 1979. More information about Mr. Taylor's firm can be found at their homepage, www.duicentral.com.