Understanding Chemical Reactions: Can Propylene Glycol Result in a Positive Alcohol Test?

This article answers the question, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” Learn how this compound leads to false positives.

What Is Propylene Glycol?

Propylene glycol is a chemical compound that is viscous, colorless, and odorless.1 Propylene glycol is used in a variety of industries and applications.

Propylene glycol is useful as a solvent and humectant. A solvent mixes well with other materials, and a humectant retains moisture. Propylene glycol is used to make many consumer products. 

will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol

When is Propylene Glycol Used?

Propylene glycol has low toxicity. It is used in the following products:

  • Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Food and beverages
  • Personal care items

Chemical Reactions and Propylene Glycol

Chemical reactions play a fundamental role in understanding the world and our bodies. Some of these processes include the formation of different compounds in our bodies. 

Some people ask, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” This critical question addresses a potential interaction between propylene glycol and alcohol tests. The relationship between propylene glycol and alcohol tests is a subject of debate.

What to Expect From This Article

In this article, we’ll discuss the compound propylene glycol. We’ll share why it can cause a false positive on alcohol tests. We’ll list risk factors for false positives and ways to determine whether alcohol has actually been consumed.

Metabolism of Propylene Glycol

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For people wondering, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?”, it can be helpful to understand how the compound works in the body. The body’s metabolism of propylene glycol can lead to false positive alcohol tests.

Propylene glycol, when taken by mouth, undergoes metabolism in the body. This metabolism occurs through various enzymatic processes. The majority of propylene glycol is often metabolized in the liver.2

Sharing Enzymes

The propylene glycol metabolism process occurs through the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). 

These enzymes are also involved in the metabolism of ethanol (alcohol). However, propylene glycol has a different metabolic pathway compared to ethanol.

Metabolic Pathways

The body breaks down propylene glycol through several steps. These steps are listed include:

  1. Conversion to Lactic Acid: Initially, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase converts propylene glycol to lactic acid. Lactic acid is then metabolized in the body’s energy production processes (citric acid cycle). The process helps to generate energy. 

  2. Lactic Acid Metabolism: Lactic acid can enter various metabolic pathways. These pathways include the citric acid cycle and the electron transport chain. Here, it undergoes further oxidation and energy production.

  3. Clearance and Elimination: This lactic acid is further processed and cleared from the body. The clearance of lactic acid occurs in the liver and other tissues. It is eventually excreted from the body via the kidneys as waste products. The metabolism of propylene glycol is relatively rapid. The elimination half-life of propylene glycol in the body is around 2 to 4 hours. It depends on the dose, individual metabolism, and overall health status.


Propylene glycol is safe for consumption in moderate amounts. However, excessive intake can overwhelm the metabolic pathways. It can lead to increased levels of propylene glycol in the body. 

People with impaired propylene glycol metabolism may experience adverse effects. Some of these effects are metabolic acidosis or other health complications. 

However, such instances are rare and occur in specific medical conditions. It also occurs in extreme propylene glycol exposure (which could be in cosmetics or pharmaceutical products).3

Propylene Glycol vs. Ethanol

The metabolism of propylene glycol differs from the metabolism of ethanol. Propylene glycol alone does not produce the byproducts responsible for the alcohol intoxication effects of ethanol consumption. 

Potential for False Positive in Alcohol Tests: Interference from Propylene Glycol

Several individuals ask, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” This is an ongoing investigation. Propylene glycol may or may not cause false positives on alcohol tests. 

Will Propylene Glycol Test Positive for Alcohol?: Breathalyzers

Some breathalyzer devices work based on the electrochemical oxidation of ethanol in the breath. These devices detect ethanol and accurately measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Still, propylene glycol shares some similarities with ethanol.

These similarities have raised concerns about possible false positive results. Hence, people asked the question, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?”

Current Research

Several studies suggest that propylene glycol only minimally interferes with breathalyzer tests. These studies suggest that it is unlikely to lead to false positives. High concentrations of propylene glycol are required to produce a positive response. 

However, certain circumstances could lead to propylene glycol interference. Excessive use of propylene glycol products, such as e-cigarette liquids, can lead to interference. Also, pharmaceutical preparations could elevate propylene glycol levels in the body. 

These circumstances may increase the likelihood of false positives. Certain individuals may metabolize propylene glycol differently, affecting the detection accuracy.

Better Technology

It is vital to consider advancements in breathalyzer technology. Modern devices often incorporate extra measures in the devices. These measures help to differentiate between ethanol and compounds like propylene glycol. 

Better technology reduces the risk of false positives. These advancements aim to improve the specificity and accuracy of alcohol tests.

Bottom Line: Level of Risk

It’s difficult to definitively answer, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” There is currently no precise level of risk associated with propylene glycol interference in alcohol tests. There is ongoing research to test the potential impact. 

It is advisable to consider some factors when interpreting alcohol test results. These factors include:

  • Individual circumstances
  • Concentrations of propylene glycol present
  • Type of breathalyzer device used

People should consider these factors to help reduce the potential for false positives. People should be transparent and understand the limitations of alcohol testing methods. 

Risk Factors for False Positive Results in Alcohol Tests

Many people ask, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” The risk of a false positive result in alcohol tests due to propylene glycol interference is low. However, certain risk factors, like the ones listed here, may increase the likelihood.

Certain Medical Conditions

When asking, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?”, it’s important to consider certain medical conditions. People with impaired propylene glycol metabolism are more susceptible to interference in alcohol tests. 

Liver Dysfunction

Liver dysfunction could affect the enzyme activity involved in propylene glycol metabolism. This factor could alter the breakdown of propylene glycol. Thus, it could also increase the risk of false positives. 


People with ketosis should ask themselves, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” Individuals with ketosis, a metabolic state associated with high levels of ketones, may have elevated acetone levels in their breath. 

Acetone can be mistakenly detected as alcohol by some breathalyzer devices. This could lead to false positive results. This issue can even worsen if the person is exposed to or uses propylene glycol products.

Respiratory Medications

Propylene glycol is commonly used in respiratory medications, such as inhalers and nebulizers. When individuals use these medications shortly before an alcohol test, it can result in elevated propylene glycol levels in their breath.

Elevated propylene glycol levels could lead to a false positive reading. So, people using these medications should consider the question, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” 

High Propylene Glycol Concentrations

Some people may excessively use products containing propylene glycol. Excessive use can elevate the body’s propylene glycol level. 

These products include:

  • Certain medications
  • E-cigarette liquids
  • Industrial substances 

Higher concentrations of propylene glycol increase the chance of interference. This increases the risk of false positive results in alcohol tests. People who have used a lot of these products should ask themselves, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?”

Timing of Consumption

The timing of propylene glycol exposure is an important consideration when asking, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” The timing of exposure in relation to alcohol testing can affect the risk of false positives. 

If a person consumes propylene glycol-containing products before an alcohol test, the residual propylene glycol in the body may interfere with test results. Allowing enough time for the clearance of propylene glycol before testing can help minimize the risk.

Test Sensitivity and Methodology

Another factor to consider when asking, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” is the type of test used. The sensitivity and specificity of the alcohol testing method used affects false positive rates.

Some types of alcohol tests, like breathalyzers, may vary in their susceptibility to propylene glycol interference. Advancements in testing technology aim to reduce the risk of false positives. Better tests can better differentiate between ethanol and other substances.

Occupational Exposure

Certain occupations or industries may involve regular exposure to propylene glycol. This can include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Cosmetics

Workers in these industries may have higher propylene glycol levels in their breath or skin. This could lead to false positive alcohol test results. These workers may need to consider the question, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?”

Strategies for Distinguishing Between Actual Alcohol Consumption and Propylene Glycol Interference

At Choice House, we know that distinguishing between actual alcohol consumption and propylene glycol interference in alcohol tests can be challenging. Some concerned individuals ask, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” 

Fortunately, several strategies can help mitigate the risk of false positives. Together, we can ensure more accurate results. Here are some strategies to consider.

Comprehensive Assessment

When evaluating alcohol impairment, it is essential to consider many indicators. These indicators include:

  • Behavioral observations
  • Physical symptoms
  • Other tests, like field sobriety tests or clinical assessments

Combining these assessments with alcohol testing results can provide a more comprehensive picture. It helps differentiate between actual alcohol consumption and potential interference.

Engage in collaborative discussions with the individual’s healthcare providers, including pharmacists and physicians. They can provide valuable insights into propylene glycol interference’s likelihood and potential extent. They can consider the individual’s medical history, medications, and exposures. 

Test for Specific Alcohol Markers

Traditional breathalyzer tests measure blood alcohol concentration by detecting ethanol in the breath. However, alternative testing methods can help to measure specific alcohol metabolites. Some of these metabolites are ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulfate (EtS).4

These metabolites are unique to ethanol consumption. They can provide more specific and reliable evidence of recent alcohol intake. It helps to distinguish it from propylene glycol interference and helps answer the question, “Will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol?” 

Advanced Breathalyzer Technology

Advancements in breathalyzer technology have led to the development of various devices. These devices can differentiate between ethanol and other substances, including propylene glycol. 

The devices use more sophisticated algorithms and sensor technologies. Better technology can improve test specificity in alcohol testing. Using such advanced breathalyzer devices can help minimize the risk of false positives. 

Confirmatory Testing

If there is a suspicion of propylene glycol interference, people can use other alcohol tests to be sure. Blood tests directly measure ethanol concentration in the blood. It provides a more accurate assessment of alcohol consumption without the risk of propylene glycol interference.

Clinical Assessment and Medical History

Considering an individual’s medical history and overall health status is crucial. Certain medical conditions or medications may influence propylene glycol metabolism or clearance. 

Time Interval Between Propylene Glycol Exposure and Testing

Testers should allow enough time for the metabolism and clearance of propylene glycol. Allowing this time before testing can reduce the risk of interference. 

The ideal duration between propylene glycol exposure and testing varies. It can depend on factors like individual metabolism and the specific product used. Consulting with experts or reviewing product information can help determine an appropriate time interval.

will propylene glycol test positive for alcohol

Can Choice House Help With Alcohol-Related Substance Use Disorders?

Although the chances of propylene glycol causing a false positive result in alcohol tests are low, it exists. At Choice House, we understand propylene glycol is a common ingredient in consumer products. 

We know that the research shows propylene glycol can interfere with alcohol testing and produce false positives. Certain health conditions increase the risk of propylene glycol interference. 

At Choice House, you can be confident we will thoroughly evaluate and understand your individual situation. Any tests you receive with us will be considered in light of your situation and the latest research. 

Our Program

If you or a loved one are considering treatment for alcohol-related substance use disorders, Choice House is ready to help. 

Choice House is a mental health treatment center that provides several treatment services for men. We are a strong, vibrant recovery community. The center offers transitional aftercare to enable clients to adjust to life after treatment. 

Contact Us

Learn more about recovery options by contacting us today. Our experienced, compassionate team is ready to help you achieve personal growth. You can contact Choice House via our website or telephone at (877) 234-4779. 

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Don’t let addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions keep you from leading the happy, healthy, and empowered life you deserve. Contact Choice House today and embrace recovery.

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