Friday, October 5, 2007

BAC affected by Rubbing Alcohol Solutions

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German Magazine for Forensic Medicine, Vol.45, pp. 530 – 531 (1956)

From the Forensic Medicine Institute of the University of Basel

(Chairman: Private Docent Dr. med. J. Im Obersteg)

To the Question of Influence on Blood Alcohol Content by Rubbing Alcohol Solutions into Intact Skin


M. Luedin

(Received on June 30 1956)

Judging blood alcohol findings in traffic offences is being made increasingly more difficult, due to the more or less provable assertions of the drivers in question. By their assertions they want to make us believe that the alcohol content found in their blood cannot possibly be traced back to just the drinks they enjoyed.

This report is based on the following concrete (actual) case:

A motorcycle driver, who, due to an accident was stopped by police and subjected to a blood test, tried to explain the alcohol content (1.4 %) found in his blood in part by saying that, three hours before the relevant drive, a college from work had rubbed camphor spirits into his chest and back because of his cold.

In the forensic medicine literature at our disposal no information whatsoever could be found regarding the influence on blood alcohol content due to rubbing larger intact skin surfaces with alcohol-containing solutions. We therefore felt that we had to clarify this question via a mass (row) experiment. (Serial Trial) (Reihenversuch)

The trial was performed on 6 medical students who volunteered for it. As a rubbing agent we used spirit of camphor (70% alcohol) and regular commercial cologne (80% alcohol). A control blood sample was taken from each student before the start of the experiment.

Four of the students each had their backs from the shoulder to the belt thoroughly rubbed for approximately ¼ hour with 100 cm3 camphor solution and 2 students with 100 cm3 cologne each, until the skin was dry again. From two of the camphor massaged and one of the cologne rubbed trial subjects blood was taken from a vein in the arm one and two hours after the end of the application. From the other three trial subjects blood was taken 1 ½ and 2 ½ hours after the massage.

The alcohol content was determined using the here usual method of NICLOUX (as modified after Rouchat) titrimetricly and interferometricly1.

The test results are compiled in the following table, whereby we are, however, aware that all values are within the error margin of the method.

For practical purposes, all blood alcohol determinations (results) of our serial trial had a negative result. The blood alcohol content of all 6 test individuals was not influenced (affected) by rubbing a larger, intact skin surface with 70 – 80% alcohol solutions within 1 -2 ½ hours.

Table 1

Test Subject Blood Alcohol after:

NR. Age Height
Weight kg Chest Control
Solution 1 Hour 1 ½ Hour 2 Hours 2 ½ Hours
1 25 186 85.6 96 0.05 Camphor 0.09 - 0.07 -
2 24 173 71.1 91 0.05 Camphor 0.08 - 0.07 -
3 26 180 69.2 87 0.07 Cologne 0.07 - 0.06 -
4 28 185 80.5 99 0.07 Camphor - 0.02 - 0.08
5 29 181 71.9 90 0.03 Camphor - 0.02 - 0.05
6 27 167 68.2 97 0.03 Cologne - 0.07 - 0.02

The given values refer to weight per mille.

Dr. M. Luedin, Basel

Forensic-medical Institute, Klingelbergstr. 82

1 Dr. R Mueller, chairman of the Canton Laboratory in Basel, and Dr. of chemistry J. Baeumler, who undertook the distillations and titrimetric determinations, I would like to thank very much for their assistance.