How Nail Polish May Fend Off Sexual Assault

PHOTO: Undercover Colors nail polish will change colors when exposed to date rape drugs.
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Pretty nails may be the newest way to foil date rape.

Undercover Colors, a nail polish that changes color when it’s exposed to date rape drugs, has won this year’s Lulu eGames, a North Carolina State University competition for student projects aimed at solving real-world problems.

"Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime," the team behind Undercover Colors -- a group of four male chemistry students -- explained on their Facebook page.

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When a woman uses her manicured finger to stir a drink laced with a common drug like rohypnol or Xanax, sometimes described as "date rape" drugs, the polish will alert her that her drink has been spiked.

The team said they were inspired to invent the product because an estimated 18 percent of American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, a study commission by the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense.

"They are our daughters, they are our girlfriends, and they are our friends," they wrote on their Facebook page.

The polish is still in the early stages of development, according to Stephen Gray, one of the company founders. And it isn’t the first product idea aimed at putting the power to thwart date rape at a woman's fingertips.

In 2011, Israeli scientists developed a straw that analyses a small sample of a drink and lights up when it detects the presence of a date rape drug. And last year, the company DrinkSavvy invented a glass that changes appearance when a drink is spiked with a potentially harmful substance.

Dr. Nathaniel Finney, the university’s expert on indicator development -- the type of technology used in the polish -- is advising the company, according to the Undercover Color Facebook page.

The Undercover Color team is currently accepting donations to fund research and development.

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