Chemistry Question #3458

Ross Richardson, a 29 year old male from Battle Creek, MI asks on May 22, 2006,

How long does it take for alcohol to be detected through the skin after your first drink? Is there currently a sensor out there to detect alcohol through skin contact?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on May 22, 2006

It takes about 30 to 120 minutes depending on the location of the sensor, the type of skin, and many other factors. Such a sensor was patented by a Canadian named Dennis Bellehumeur in 2005, but so far the product has not come to market. A company in Colorado called Alcohol Monitoring Systems Inc. makes an ankle bracelet called SCRAM that is currently used by many American courts to monitor alcohol use in repeatedly convicted and violent alcoholics. An excellent review of alcohol skin sensor technology by Patrick Barone, a Michigan defense attorney, has an explanation of how these devices work. It also has a good bibliography of books and scientific research papers on the detection of alcohol levels through skin.

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