BOSTON — Just in time for the holidays, a distribution company has unveiled a two-minute alcohol screening test that it said will allow revelers to determine their alcohol level by licking a test strip.
TestAhol saliva tests--not usable as legal evidence--will be sold for 98 cents each in drugstores, department stores and supermarkets in the Northeast and Southwest starting next week, the company said.
"This is one of the scariest times of the year and a lot of people are aware there are problems with drinking and driving," said Richard Hamilton, president and founder of TestAll, which is marketing the product.
Given as Gifts
Hamilton said he hopes the tests will be used as stocking stuffers and added to holiday party menus.
To use the test, a drinker must wait at least 15 minutes after the last drink is consumed and then lick the padded end of the test strip.
The pad contains alcohol oxidase enzyme, which upon contact with saliva turns a particular shade of aqua in proportion to the amount of alcohol in the body, the company claims.
Two minutes after a customer licks the pad, it is compared with colored squares on the package, labeled to correspond to four levels of alcohol:
1--You'll feel noticeable effects.
2--Concentration, reflexes, vision impaired . . . you shouldn't drive.
4--No body control, drowsy.
Michael Bright, chief chemist at Bergen Pines Hospital in Paramas, N.Y., said the hospital uses the sticks to test the blood--not saliva--of incoming patients for alcohol.
"We planned to use them on saliva, but we couldn't get the cooperation we needed for that from our patients," he said.
Bright said the hospital has found the test to be "extremely sensitive to very low limits of alcohol" in blood.
"We know if there's a negative on the strip, there is no alcohol," he said. "But I can't at all say whether it performs as they intended it to with saliva. I would expect it to, but I have not seen the evidence to support it."
Hamilton said several police departments have expressed an interest in TestAhol and the company plans to submit it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington for further testing.
To protect its maker from liability lawsuits, the test carries a warning that "any decision based on results of this test are sole responsibility of the user."
"We feel it's basically not a product for the drinker, but rather for the person who cares about the drinker," said Hamilton.