Human decomposition is the process where organs and other tissues in the body breakdown after death. There are a few typical stages of human decomposition including autolysis where the body begins to break down, the shutdown of all internal organs, skin discoloration, and the final breakdown from advanced decay to skeletonization. While decomposition begins several minutes after death, the rate at which a body decomposes through these phases can vary drastically. Here are some factors that are known to speed the process up.
Climate and location
Factors like the temperature, weather, and moisture can greatly affect the speed of the human decomposition process. NIH states that exposure to elevated temperatures, increased humidity, and/or water can cause accelerated decomposition. A failure to quickly or adequately refrigerate bodies may also lead to early decomposition. The location of the deceased matters greatly when it comes to the rate of decomposition. Indoor deaths may decompose at a steadier rate, especially if the environment is temperate and dry since the body is not exposed to the elements. On the other hand, if the space is warm and filled with moisture, the process tends to be sped up.
Outside there are many factors to consider when it comes to the speed of decomposition. In addition to the weather and environment, there are other factors to consider like animals/bugs and exposure to the sun. According to a study released by UC Davis, temperature and moisture are incredibly important.
“Soil temperature and moisture content are very important factors affecting decomposition rates. At favorable moisture conditions, increasing temperature results in an exponential increase in decomposition rates. At a constant temperature, soil moisture content shows a parabolic effect on decomposition rates with a maximum rate at intermediate levels of moisture.”
Burial conditions have a great effect on the speed of decomposition. In fact, if a body was buried underground, the process of decomposition can be slowed dramatically. This is due to a number of factors, starting with the availability of oxygen. Bodies that are in an oxygen-deprived situation like buried, submerged, or in a coffin typically decompose at a slower rate. Other burial conditions like the type of casket or lack thereof greatly affect the rate of decomposition.
Other conditions of the body including size/weight and trauma can also have an effect. A smaller, skinnier person will decompose much quicker than a larger, heavier one. If the body had endured extreme trauma before death, it could also decompose much quicker. While it’s helpful to understand the process of decomposition, it’s also important to seek help if a dead body is left in a space too long.
Getting professional biohazard cleanup help from the experts
Unfortunately, according to WBRZ, 2021 was a record year for homicides which left crime scene clean-up crews busy. Professional cleaning companies like Xtreme Cleaners are highly trained and certified in biohazard recovery to safely recover distressed properties and have been diligently answering calls and responding to extreme cleaning requests at a much higher rate than ever before.
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