New Nail Polish Could Detect Date Rape Drugs

New Nail Polish Could Detect Date Rape Drugs

By Victoria Kim 08/29/14

The brainchild of four male undergrads, Undercover Colors aims to empower women to protect themselves from horrendous crimes.

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A new, innovative nail polish could introduce a new level of accountability in potential date rape crimes. The polish, called Undercover Colors, is still in development, but it can change color when it comes in contact with date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB.

Undercover Colors is the brainchild of four male undergraduate students at North Carolina State University majoring in Materials Science & Engineering (MSE). “While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection,” the creators said. “Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”

The team of four won the Lulu eGames student competition with Undercover Colors. The competition was sponsored by North Carolina State University’s Entrepreneurship Initiative to challenge students to design working solutions to real-world problems.

“Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught,” the creators said.

Date rape drugs are slipped into a drink without the victim’s knowledge and are often odorless and tasteless. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women experience rape at some point in their lives, with more than one-third of those rapes happening when women are of college age.

“With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong,” the creators explained.

Undercover Colors is still in the early development stage, according to a statement on the company’s Facebook page. Donations to research and development can be made on their website.

But despite the overwhelming positive feedback that Undercover Colors has received, detractors say the polish simply will not work. One such detractor, known as Animal New York’s Backdoor Pharmacist, points out that already-existing “minilab” products designed to detect date rape drugs—from test strips in coasters, cups, straw, and stirrers—do not work, and a nail polish is no exception. This is mainly due to the impossible breadth of substances used to sedate date rape victims, among which GHB and Rohypnol were found to be relatively rare compared to other substances.