Insufficient Breath Sample or Shy Lung
Evidential Breath Testers (EBT’s) are engineered to automatically capture a breath sample when analyzing for the presence of alcohol. There are two critical conditions which must be met in order for an automatic breath sample to be taken. First, the subject must provide a minimum volume of breath (1200 cc’s of breath for the Alco-Sensor IV and 1350 cc’s of breath for the Alco-Sensor V). Second, the subject must reach a breath flow drop off point. When both conditions occur, the instrument’s fuel cell automatically opens to capture 1cc of breath sample. However, when your subject will not or cannot provide the minimum volume of breath and reach the breath flow drop off point, it is referred to as “insufficient breath sample” or “shy lung”. Here are the most common reasons for “insufficient breath sample” or “shy lung” and ways to overcome it:
- Improper instruction to the subject: This is the number one reason Breath Alcohol Technicians (BAT) fail to obtain a sufficient amount of breath. It is very important to provide the proper instructions to your subject. I often hear students in a training class instruct their test subjects using phrases like, “blow hard” or “blow long and hard”. If you subject blows too hard, the instrument will likely render an error message and your subject is going to run out of breath before they reach that critical breath flow drop off point. The clearest instruction you can provide is…“Take a deep breath. Hold if for just one second. Blow long and steady until I tell you to stop.” It is also a good idea to ask them if they understood the instructions AND if they didn’t, take an individual mouthpiece and provide a demonstration.
- Subject is “faking it”: If you think your subject is “faking it”, try to take a manual breath sample. Your Alco-Sensor is engineered to allow you to capture a manual breath sample and gives you three chances to do so before it displays a “Void 6” or “Insufficient Sample” error message in the display window. Between each attempt, continue to give good instructions as outlined above. From the previous attempt, mentally note when the subject reached that breath flow drop off point so you know when to press your manual trigger.
- Subject has a medical condition: The DER should notify you if there is a known medical condition and proactively order a manual breath sample be taken. However, there may be times when you will not be made aware of this. As the BAT you are empowered by the DOT federal regulations to attempt the capture of a manual breath sample. In any case give clear instructions to your subject at all times.
- You have a clogged mouthpiece: A mouthpiece should be removed from the package by tearing at the pouch perforation or peel back flap. Never remove a mouthpiece by jamming the end through the plastic pouch. This may force plastic into the mouthpiece, making air flow impossible.
- Subject is too nervous: That which is unfamiliar can often times make someone feel anxious or nervous. Take a little time to make your subject feel comfortable by communicating the process and demonstrating how to provide a good breath sample. If they cannot overcome their nervous state, try to take a manual breath sample.
Manual breath sampling for alcohol testing is preferred over reports of “Insufficient Sample”. Being aware of primary causes for “Insufficient Sample” and some of the ways of overcoming this obstacle will render more completed tests and more efficient operations.
DEBORAH POMEROY says
I could not give a sufficient breathalyzer sample for my job because I have facial paralysis on the right side of my face which occurred when I had recurrant aggressive skin cancer that resulted in me losing the right ear and most of the tissue around the ear including my right cheek. I always passed my breathalyzer tests at work before this surgery.
Since the surgeries in 2012 (I had to have 2 major and 3 minor ones) I have paralysis similar to someone who has had a stroke. I have difficulty opening my mouth wide at the dentists office,(I think they cringe when they see my name on the list). I had to have a midlift after the 9 hour surgery where I lost my ear and a portion of my left thigh to cover the missing part as my face fell drastically.
Anyway, I have to go to a pulmonologist now because they DOT requires me to do so because of the insufficient test. It is not because I have a lung deficiency but due to this paralysis in my face. I can’t even whistle any more. The lady administering the test did not offer me a manual test. Should she have?
Jennie Lee-Pace says
Administering a manual test is not mandatory by DOT standards. It is considered by the DOT a “best practice”. DOT’s preference is that a successful test be performed instead of an insufficient breath outcome, so that means the technician should attempt to capture a manual breath sample by pushing the manual button on the device. Perhaps the person performing your test wasn’t trained properly on how to use the manual button on their device or is unaware of the DOT preferences to conduct manual breath sampling. Perhaps their clinic policy is never to perform a manual breath sample, which is unwise in my personal opinion, because it saves the employer the cost in having the employee undergo the medical evaluation and special pulmonary test that you describe. I would have your employer inquire why the testing facility did not perform a manual breath test on you. Then I would have your employer demand a manual test be performed. The DOT gives your employer the authority to tell the technician how to conduct the test. Hopefully this information is helpful to you. Best Wishes.
Ashley Bennett says
I was involved in an accident and as a result the airbags were deployed, I was instructed to blow in the Alco Sensor FST device until I was told to stop. I could not have blown into the device properly been that my throat felt sored and clogged from the sensation of the airbags.
In this regard I blew twice and resulted insufficient base on what the BAT said he did not shows me any result thus I have no clue of the device reading.
1) Could the nitrogen gases from the airbags give a false positive reading
2) What the length of training to administer a Alco Sensor and Intoximeter Electromechanical Infrared 11 on a subject in order to use and operates the device properly and know of its scientifical use.
3) What happens to the device after two insufficient blows
Jennie Lee-Pace says
An insufficient breath sample simply means you did not provide enough breath into the device in order for it to automatically capture and analyze a breath sample. On the Alco-Sensor FST, the device shows an error code related to Insufficient breath. It is not a requirement for law enforcement to show the device window with the test results. It’s a good practice, but not a requirement. An insufficient breath sample is not considered to be a failed test because the test was never completed.
The nitrogen gases from deployed air bags will not interfer with a test result. The FST reads alcohol molecules from a subject’s breath only, not your car airbags.
For a test administered by law enforcement, (not a DOT test), there is no length of training requirement.
After 2 insufficient blows, it is up to the law enforcement person what to do. It’s all subject to individual state laws.