The impact of severe lung disease on evidential breath analysis collection

Leigh M. Seccombe*, Peter G. Rogers, Lachlan Buddle, Barbara Karet, Gavina Cossa, Matthew J. Peters, Elizabeth M. Veitch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: It is a legal requirement to supply a breath analysis sample when requested by Police at roadside checkpoints. The current device requires a 1 L sample at 8 L·min-1. Court disputes commonly attribute respiratory disease for failure to produce a sample. Objective: To determine whether respiratory disease aetiology and/or severity precludes an adequate breath sample using a modern evidential breath analyser. Methods: Subjects performed breath analysis following standard Police procedure. Three efforts within 15 min were allowed and any reasons for failure recorded. Results: 24 subjects with interstitial lung disease (ILD) and 26 subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were studied and met minimum respiratory function criteria as per device specifications. 18 ILD subjects (75%) and 24 COPD subjects (92%) were able to provide a sample. All subjects with a vital capacity below 1.5 L were unable to provide a sample. Discussion: In the balance of probabilities most patients with lung disease are able to supply an evidential breath sample. The exception is a very severe disease, particularly in volume limited patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-259
Number of pages4
JournalScience and Justice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Breath alcohol
  • Breath analysis
  • Lung disease
  • Lung function


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