A devastating threat to the tradition of high school keggers has emerged:
Determined to stop their students consuming alcohol at weekends, staff at Pequannock Township High School in Morris county are to start using a controversial test that can detect if students have been drinking up to a week earlier.
The test measures urine concentrations of an ethanol breakdown product called ethyl glucuronide (EtG). "We plan to use this new test as part of our comprehensive testing programme to keep our kids safe from the dangers of drugs and alcohol," says Larrie Reynolds, superintendent of Pequannock High School. "About four to eight kids will be tested every day." In New Jersey drinking alcohol is illegal under the age of 21.
It's true that underage drinking poses potential problems, such as, for instance, death: the article points out that 1700 US high school students died from alcohol poisoning or "related incidents" in 2005. However, the test itself has its own problems:
However, the EtG test poses a problem. It is so sensitive that even total abstainers can sometimes test positive. Alcohol absorbed from soaps, mouthwashes or contaminated vinegars or by drinking a sip of communion wine can be enough.
This has already proven very problematic in professional circumstances, where the results of an EtG test can affect a person's career status. No doubt innocent students will find themselves facing expulsion or other penalties; apparently that's just the price to pay to keep the school clean. It's an unhappy precedent to set for these kids, but I guess the earlier you learn that you really don't have any right to privacy in this country, the better.