Ethyl Glucuronide or EtG is a by-product of ethanol, an intoxicating substance that is naturally occurring in alcoholic beverages such as wine, liquor and beer, and glucuronide, a compound produced in the liver that facilitates the excretion of drugs and other toxins in the urine. It is produced through the fermentation of starches, sugars and yeast. When a person drinks an alcoholic beverage, EtG that is detectable in the urine, is formed.
Generally, urine EtG detection is a better choice than breath or blood alcohol test because EtG is evident in the urine for a longer period of time. One glass of alcohol are enough for EtG to be present in the urine for 2 to 3 days, or longer if the donor drank heavily. However, it is not possible to know how much alcohol one has consumed through EtG testing.
Factors that influence the results for an EtG test include the actual amount consumed and the time frame it was consumed. There are those who are naturally inclined to convert more alcohol EtG than others, or excrete the compound speedily. In short, EtG urine testing for alcohol was designed to detect alcohol consumption and not to measure heavy drinking.
Suitability of EtG Alcohol Testing
EtG alcohol testing used to be an expensive option since it required specialized laboratory equipment. However, the cost of EtG urine testing for alcohol has significantly gone down due to the development of an instant urine testing for alcohol metabolites. The process is quite straightforward as a tester is simply dipped into a urine sample. The results are available after only a few minutes.
An EtG test is not practical for testing drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol. This test is a more appropriate test for workplaces that have a zero tolerance policy for alcohol.
An EtG test is perfect for:
- Workplaces where alcohol testing is part of their drug testing program
- Alcohol abuse treatment/rehabilitation centers
- Parole or probation offices where persons staying there are ordered by the court to abstain from alcohol
Instant EtG alcohol testing cannot detect alcohol abuse or dependence, or chronic drinking problems. However, on-site alcohol testing will greatly protect the workplace, employees and employers from alcohol-related incidents and accidents.
Facts On EtG Alcohol Testing
There are common products sold at pharmacies and grocery stores that contain ethanol. When one of these ethanol-containing products is taken before alcohol testing, it is possible to come up with a positive result. Some of these products include over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, balsamic vinegar, sauerkraut, mouthwashes and some non-alcoholic drinks that may actually contain at least 1% ethanol.
In-vitro formation of ethyl glucuronide in the body may occur in diabetics with urinary tract infection. A person with untreated or uncontrolled diabetes has excess glucose in the blood and when excreted in the urine can actually be fermented by microbial organisms. If the bacterium is E. coli, then the fermented alcohol may be turned to a measurable amount of ethyl glucuronide.
If the urine sample has been kept at room temperature for quite a time, bacterial degradation could happen. When this happens the EtG in the urine will decrease. For example a urine sample that initially tested positive may register a lower level of EtG if tested again at a later time. It is recommended that a urine sample for EtG testing should be refrigerated if it cannot be transported to the laboratory within 2-3 days.
To date, EtG testing is acceptable evidence in court hearings and proceeding. The process has passed the Frye hearing standards in a number of court cases.