Very recently, a personal breathalyzer company in the US, Breathometer, was ordered to recall their devices and pay up to $5.1million in refunds to anyone who bought the device due to poor testing and inaccurate results.
The Breathometer debuted in 2014 and sold for $49; it shot to national prominence after getting investments in 2013 on the ABC reality show Shark Tank.
The breathalyser allegedly worked just by having it plugged into your phone’s headphone jack. The user then just opens an app and breathes into the device to get an alcohol breath test result.
The Breathometer promised to tell people their blood-alcohol content level within an accuracy matching police breathalysers – it didn’t.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that the device was poorly tested and that it gave inaccurate results, telling users that they were sober or clear to drive when they weren’t.
Breathometer sold two versions of its products—the Original and the Breeze—claiming that they were proven by “government-lab grade testing,” according to the FTC. An ad for the Breeze claimed it was a “law-enforcement grade product.”
“People relied on the defendant’s products to decide whether it was safe to get behind the wheel,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.
“Overstating the accuracy of the devices was deceptive — and dangerous.”
The FTC alleged that neither claim was true and that the Breeze often understated blood alcohol content.
The app has since been disabled, and Breathometer is required to notify customers who bought the item and offer them a full refund as part of the settlement.
We can learn a few lessons from Breathometer recall.
Buy breathalysers that are tested and certified for accuracy
The Breathometer’s accuracy was not tested. The company made a claim that people readily believed, but it wasn’t backed up with any certification from an independent testing body. The Breathometer recall brought the issue to public attention, but what about other breathalysers that are making the same unbacked claim?
In Australia, one way to determine the quality and accuracy of a breathalyser is by whether or not it is certified to Australian Standards AS3547 as an alcohol testing device.
Standards are published documents setting out specifications and procedures, and are designed to ensure products, services and systems are safe, reliable and consistent.
Standards specify requirements to achieve minimum objectives of safety, quality or performance of a product or service.
These standards are based on sound industrial, scientific and consumer experience and are regularly reviewed to ensure they keep pace with new technologies.
Australian Standard AS3547 in particular, specifies the requirements for the performance, testing and marking of breath alcohol testing devices.
Andatech’s personal breathalysers, for example, are tested and certified to Australian Standards AS3547, so you know that they have been tested and are certified to meet strict standards.
This also means that our breathalysers are serviceable and well-supported through a strict control process as a safety device.
Breathalysers should not be used as a tool to drink and drive
Breathalysers should be used as a guide only, to let you know what your blood alcohol content is after you’ve consumed alcohol. They should never be used as a tool to drink and drive.
If you plan to drink, plan not to drive.
Breathometer’s claim that you can drive if you blow under is extremely dangerous due to a few reasons:
- Your BAC can continue to rise up to 3 hours after your last drink
- A breathalyser’s accuracy is dependent on several factors (including calibration maintenance, sensor technology)
- Your BAC is not indicative of your ability to drive. Even a little bit of alcohol in your system can affect your motor skills and decision-making abilities.
Blowing under the legal limit does not protect you from getting into a road accident.
The Breathometer recall is an important lesson to everyone, especially to breathalyser manufacturers like ourselves. However, we can at least be assured that we are providing the best breathalysers by getting them certified to Australian Standards.
Did you own a Breathometer or have something similar? Tell us what you
Image credit: Breathometer (Indiegogo)