College Students Develop Nail Polish to Detect Date Rape Drugs

Created: 08/25/2014 10:58 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- Alcohol is a common factor in sexual assault, especially when it comes to things like date rape. A group of college students invented a way for women to help protect themselves, that doubles as a fashion statement.

Going out for a few drinks with friends often takes a little bit of primping. "You sort of get all dressed up, you could do a fun nail polish if you want it to match your clothes,” said Elizabeth Davis of Rochester. But what if that manicure could double as protection against date rape drugs?

"I’ve actually never heard of it,” said Davis.

"That's awesome, I would definitely use that,” said Andrea Villarraga of Rochester.

A group of North Carolina State University students used their chemistry background to invent "Undercover Colors." Its nail polish that looks like what you'd buy at any store, but goes well beyond pretty nails. The nail polish changes color when it's exposed to date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB.  So a woman wearing it can stir her drink and the polish will alert her that it's been spiked.

"I’ll buy it, you have a consumer right here, I will buy one to see if it works,” said Davis.

"I like that you wouldn't have to make a big deal out of it, it would just be discrete, you could just stir your drink, no one would have to know,” said Villarraga.

The inventors were inspired by a the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. It found an estimated 18% of American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

Local law enforcement likes the idea of another preventative measure. "We're excited potentially about something else that might be available to assist people to know if their drink has been tampered with,” said Sheriff Dave Mueller, Olmsted County. “Also, I think it's really important to pay attention when you're out there, to know who you're with and where your drink potentially is,” Mueller added.

"Ultimately, it's great for women to sort of take charge of themselves and I think it's a good idea,” said Davis.

The polish won this year's North Carolina State University competition for student projects aimed at solving real-world problems. It's still in its early stages and is not yet available for purchase. The Undercover Color team is accepting donations for research and development.