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Blood and Beverage Alcohol Analysis

Overview
The Blood and Beverage Alcohol Section tests evidence for the presence and concentration of alcohol (specifically ethanol).  Blood alcohol results are reported in grams per 100 milliliters (g/100mL) and beverage alcohol results are reported as a percentage by volume (% v/v).
 
Processing of Evidence by the Blood and Beverage Alcohol Section
After documenting case specific information such as subject’s name, collection date, and collection time, a measured amount of sample is removed from the collection tube and dispensed into a glass vial.  The contents of the vial are then diluted with a measured amount of water solution called the internal standard solution.  The vial is then capped with an airtight seal.  The air above the liquid (headspace) is analyzed using a gas chromatograph equipped with flame ionization and mass selective detectors (GC/FID/MSD).
 

How do I order more blood/beverage alcohol collection kits?
The crime lab will provide blood alcohol collection kits and beverage alcohol collection kits to Alaska law enforcement agencies.  Requests for kits should be emailed to DPS Supply (DPS.supply.orders@alaska.gov).  To speed up fulfillment of your order request, please ensure the following information is provided:

  • Item and quantity requested
  • Whether it needs to be mailed or will be picked up
  • Contact name
  • Phone number
  • Mailing address

How much blood do you need for testing?
The amount of blood needed for alcohol testing is relatively small (approximately 1 milliliter).  If subsequent drug toxicology testing is requested, more blood will be needed (approximately 5 milliliters depending on how many drugs need confirmation). 

With that said, additional tubes of blood should be collected and saved for independent testing.  Blood collection kits provided by the crime lab contain four 10 mL gray top tubes.  All four of these tubes should be filled when collecting a blood sample.  The crime lab will test one of these tubes for alcohol and may send a second one out for drug toxicology testing. 
 
How did the lab choose which items to test? 
When multiple blood specimens from the same subject are submitted, the analyst will choose one for testing.  Samples that have the earliest collection times and that are collected in tubes containing anticoagulant and/or preservative are preferred.

When multiple containers of suspected beverage alcohol are submitted, the analyst will choose one for testing.  Testing of additional containers may occur in the following circumstances:
 
  • The contents from the initially chosen container tested negative
  • The combined volume (obtained from the manufacturer labels) of the multiple containers exceeds a legal threshold.

Liquids that are inside manufacturer sealed containers labeled to contain alcohol will not be tested.

What is the lowest alcohol concentration currently reported by the lab? 
The laboratory currently reports blood alcohol concentrations down to 0.020 g/100mL.  If our data indicates an alcohol concentration between 0.010 and 0.019 g/100mL, the result will be reported as “Less than 0.020 g/100mL”.  Data indicating a concentration lower than 0.010 g/100mL is reported as negative.
 
Why wasn’t drug toxicology performed?
The crime lab currently funds the outsourcing of drug toxicology testing through a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grant.  Cases have to involve a driving-related offense in order to be forwarded for drug toxicology testing.
 
Samples will not be forwarded if the blood alcohol result is 0.100 g/100mL or higher and the incident did not involve a driving related injury.   
 
What alcohol interpretation topics can experts at the lab cover?
The Interpretation of Alcohol Results manual is located on the Quality Assurance page of the website under the Quantitative Alcohol Manuals tab.  The intent of this manual is to describe how forensic scientists within the alcohol section of the laboratory will interpret the results of blood and breath alcohol measurements.  It also serves as a summary to the legal community as to what to expect when a forensic scientist’s testimony is to include alcohol interpretation.   

The Quantitative Alcohol Procedure Manual and the Interpretation of Alcohol Results Manual are located on the Quality Assurance page of the website under the Quantitative Alcohol Manuals tab. 

Blood Alcohol
  • The procedure for collection and handling of blood samples (as they relate to forensic alcohol testing) can be found in the Alaska Administrative Code (13 AAC 63.110).
  • Blood collection kits provided by the crime lab contain gray top tubes which contain a preservative and anticoagulant.  If blood is collected utilizing non-gray top tubes, please contact the Blood and Beverage Alcohol section regarding shipping and storage instructions prior to shipping evidence to the laboratory.
Beverage Alcohol
  • Collect samples utilizing a beverage alcohol collection kit provided by the laboratory following the instructions inside the kit.  Do not discard the powder inside the tubes.