Waiting to Exhale

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by Jason Brandt (@jasondmg3)

For over half a century, the Breathalyzer has given law-enforcement officials a portable, fairly reliable instrument to test for, and prevent, driving under the influence.

However, when you start to listen to the critics of the technology complain that diabetics, dieters, hyperventilaters, mouthwash users, cold medicine users or smokers can have incorrect results (either damaging the sensors or inaccurately finding the subjects to be more, or less, inebriated than they may actually be) – you start to wonder:

If a Breathalyzer can pick up these other compounds, why cant it be made to test for more than just alcohol?

Well, of course,you wouldnt be the first to have this thought. Its being called “disruptive – but isnt this the nature of all technological advances? Their goal is to make data available more rapidly and with less difficulty.

Obviously, diagnosing diabetes is an obvious place to start, as the existing technology already can pick it out sometimes. Additionally, youve probably heard over the years that dogshave been trained to identify the breath of people with cancer. Lung and breast cancerare being “sniffed out in clinical tests now. Liver disease is,kidney disease, heart disease, even schizophrenia may be in the cards.

I can speculate about others, even though Im not a scientist. Mental illnesses like anxiety, stress and panic attacks are often accompanied by physical manifestations that could be measured by checking how rapidly and shallowly you might be breathing.

And of course, there are pulmonary conditions like asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and maybe even the common cold. Measuring the frequency and depth of breathing, in addition to the compounds exhaled, can help diagnose and manage conditions.

While were at it, perhaps it could compare the ambient temperature with your exhalation to see whether youre running a fever.

I can envision the morning where puffing into a mouthpiece – part Breathalyzer, partspirometer, part thermometer – is as much a part of my routine as hopping on the scale. My simple efforts of a couple of seconds, using my scale, exhaler, and Magic Mirror (see Krissys Nov. 10 post), would be rapidly, brilliantly, noninvasively working to collect, analyze, report and share a wealth of information about me – all while Im still stumbling around half asleep.

Now, if only one of them could floss for me and remember to pack my gym bag.

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