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Shopping advice

Buying a good breathalyser isn't easy. There are lots of very misleading adverts, empty promises and glossy packaging to catch you out. As in so many cases, it's important to be an aware consumer. This is where MHF can help you.

Quality level of breathalysers

The breathalyser market has long been completely unregulated and flooded with poor products that do not work as promised. As of this year there are two international EU standards that define a quality level that products must satisfy in order to be sold in Sweden. This will in future help consumers here in Sweden to make good choices.
As of 2013, there are two new standards for breathalysers.
  • Private use SS-EN 16280:2012. Scandtest AM 800 is one of the first breathalysers to be approved for private use.
  • Professional use, such as the police, companies, etc. SS-EN 15964:2011. Scandtest AMP 100 is one of the first breathalysers to be approved for professional use.
We will unfortunately have to live with the problem of uncertainty for another year or so, as manufacturers are now in the process of adapting their products and having impartial product tests performed at accredited laboratories in order to check that they are complying with these standards.

Factors for a reliable breathalyser

1. Measure exhaled air correctly
Measuring the alcohol in exhaled air makes strict demands of the breathalyser. One important factor than many manufacturers seem to forget is that the alcohol in exhaled breath must reflect the body's blood alcohol concentration. You can only achieve this if you can test the air from the very depths of the lungs. Because it is in the depths of the lungs that the alcohol in the exhaled breath corresponds to the blood alcohol content. A breathalyser that takes the sample, for example, after only half a litre of exhaled air can report a result that is up to 70-80 per cent wrong.
2. Stable readings
Another important quality factor is that the breathalyser is stable and measures the same level every time. A breathalyser that produces fluctuating readings is an unreliable product that should not be sold.
3. Regular calibration
A third important factor is that the breathalyser is calibrated regularly and that whoever performs the calibration knows exactly how to do it properly.

What you need to bear in mind as a customer

Even if you have a good breathalyser, there are a few important factors that you need to bear in mind.
1. Wait 10-15 minutes before you blow
You must make sure that your mouth is free of alcohol before you blow into a breathalyser. If you have drunk something containing alcohol in the last 10-15 minutes, even if it is only a low-alcohol beer, you must not blow into the breathalyser.
Many people take their breathalyser along to a party and have a strong drink, before blowing into the breathalyser straight away. This produces an extremely high result that does not reflect the effect on the body, but simply shows the alcohol level in your mouth. The calibration of certain breathalysers can also be distorted completely, which means that you have to send your breathalyser for a new calibration in order to be able to rely on the results.
2. Keep track of the blood alcohol level
Many people confuse the terms mg/l and permillage (‰). Mg/l is used when you measure exhaled air. Permillage is used when you measure the alcohol in the blood. The Swedish Road Traffic Offences Act states that you are guilty of drunken driving if you operate a motor vehicle, train or boat with an alcohol concentration of more than 0.2‰ or 0.10 mg/l in the exhaled air. These two levels correspond to one another in terms of alcoholic effect.
It is very common to mix up these different units of measure, and as a consumer it is important to know the difference. If you have a breathalyser that simply shows values without stating which unit of measure (milligrams per litre or ‰), the user might believe that he/she is only half as intoxicated as he/she actually is.