Discover The Latest Findings On How The Environment Effects Body Decomposition
The Body Farm is now what the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center is called and it is a 2-acre outdoor laboratory that has become a bit famous. Its fame stems from media outlets responding to the curiosity that the surrounding community has about death. Top Scholars use the facility to study the process of decomposition to human remains that have been donated to the center. The data the center is collecting is helping criminologist who studies crime scenes to more precisely determine a victim’s time of death.
The staff at BioRecovery are not scientists but they have dealt with decomposing bodies for almost 20 years in the process of helping their clients around the nation and this has given them a familiarity with the temporal and environmental effects on deceased bodies.
The Basics Of Body Recomposition
Once a person dies their body begins to immediately break down. Bacteria that is inside and outside of the body along with enzymes will play a role in the process and how fast or slow the decomposition takes place. Gas is in the body will cause it to bloat and the skin will sometimes rupture as part of this process. Pressure builds and forces liquids to exit through body orifices.
When the body is exposed to outside elements insects will gather and begin laying eggs around the mouth, nose, and eyes of the deceased. The larvae will substantially accelerate the bodies decomposition which then exposes more of the surface to the elements which further accelerates the process. If the body is somewhere that animals can get to it then the tissue and bones can be scattered significantly.
Temperature And Dampness
How hot or cold an area is or how dry or wet it is are the four main weather conditions that significantly affect the decomposition of a body. If the air is stagnant or is circulating and if the body has direct contact with sunlight then these are all factors that will have an effect on the body. Using help from a study done in 2018 titled ‘Modern Mummies’, we’ll take a look at what was learned.
When a body is exposed to humid and warm temperatures like those found in Florida or even during the summer months in New York City, it causes bacterial growth and insect activity. There are always microbes in the environment as well as on our skin and in our digestive tract. When we think of bacteria we often think of the bad kind like salmonella and e-coli but there are also a number of good bacteria that we are exposed to. Refrigeration slows down the process caused by bacteria and this is why we refrigerate our food to make it last longer and why medical examiners place deceased bodies in cold storage.
When the body is exposed to very dry elements regardless of whether the temperature is cold or warm it will cause a process where the body begins to mummify from the outside inward. Bacteria needs to have a certain level of moisture and when the air is drier it aids the desiccation process. When a seal is used to retain heat or air conditioning it can help preserve a corpse and keep it from decomposing rapidly.
Homes are now often energy efficient and have fewer places for rodents and insects to enter. When the technicians from BioRecovery clean up after a crime scene they often find it remarkably well-preserved. This stands in stark contrast to other crime scenes where windows were opened and the body was exposed to humid temperatures and insects. It is, however, very rare to come across a body that is completely shielded from the elements but when old iron coffins were unearthed by accident that was made in the 19th century it was amazing to see how little the corpses had decomposed.
It’s for this reason that clean up is often easier in the modern energy efficient homes found in areas such as Florida than it is in an old apartment building in New York City. If a body is left in a vehicle in the hot sun the car could become a Biohazard.
Appreciating The Crime Scene Investigation
When a person dies there are a number of things that affect how fast they decompose and these can include physical conditions before they died, medications, their last meal, and even their clothing. If they are exposed to ultraviolet rays from the Sun then it might restrict microbial growth in a similar way that using UV light to sterilize food and water is used. All of these things play a part in understanding decomposition by forensic anthropologist and why it is being studied at the Body Farm so that crime scene investigations are more accurate. The findings are helping to solve crimes and bring justice.
Even though clean up companies like BioRecovery don’t directly handle the bodies we still feel it’s important to help our clients by removing bio-hazardous residue that is left behind because of a crime. These things can include blood spatter, DNA, fingerprints, and other fluids and items that are still there after the yellow tape placed by the police come down.
Our technicians are highly trained and have experienced most scenarios surrounding death. For the average person a crime scene is often disturbing but for those who deal with it daily, it is a job that is done with dignity and respect and most importantly with detail.