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A longevity study to determine appropriate storage conditions for sexual lubricants using spectroscopic and spectrometric techniques

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International Volume: 328 Dated: November 2021
Date Published
November 2021

This study sought to determine the optimal storage time length and conditions appropriate for storing trace lubricant residue. 


There has been an increase in the number of reported cases in which assailants have used a condom or sexual lubricant. Sexual predators understand that DNA from seminal fluid is one of the main forms of evidence used to connect a suspect to a victim or crime scene; therefore, the use of condoms in sexual assault cases has increased. This dilemma has led to research into other types of trace evidence (e.g., sexual lubricants). The current research project used Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), direct analysis in real time-high resolution mass spectrometry (DART-HRMS), and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) techniques to analyze the stored swabs containing sexual lubricants at eight timepoints over 18 months. Blank, personal lubricant, and condom swabs were stored under several environmental conditions. Swab storage enabled the determination of whether lubricants degraded, thus adversely affecting the ability to recognize the classification patterns. Resulting spectra from each instrument can be used to identify environmental degradation of lubricant samples and generate investigative leads. Pearson Correlation Coefficients and time plots of the chemical components were used to determine whether chemical breakdown occurred for each lubricant and whether the pattern changed significantly. Results showed that the strongest correlations occur between the initial timepoint (T 0) and one month (T1m), with correlations decreasing consistently up to 18 months (T18m). The best storage conditions were determined to be 22 °C at both 16 percent and 50 percent humidity. The ability to understand the effects of environment and time to the analysis of sexual lubricants may offer helpful information when analyzing sexual assault kits. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: November 1, 2021