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Forensic Sci Int. 2012 Oct 10;222(1-3):234-41. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.06.006. Epub 2012 Jun 22.

Odor mortis.

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Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6120, USA.


This study, the third of a series on the odor signature of human decomposition, reports on the intermittent nature of chemical evolution from decomposing human remains, and focuses primarily on headspace analysis from soil associated with older human remains (10-60+ years) from different environments around the globe. Fifty grams of soil were collected in 40 mL glass vials with polypropylene sealed lids from soil above known or suspected graves and from subsurface chemical plumes associated with human decompositional events. One hundred eighty six separate samples were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). After comparison to relevant soil controls, approximately fifty volatile chemical compounds were identified as being associated with human remains. This manuscript reports these findings and identifies when and where they are most likely to be detected showing an overall decrease in cyclic and halogenated compounds and an increase in aldehydes and alkanes as time progresses. This research identifies the "odor signatures" unique to the decomposition of human remains with projected ramifications on cadaver dog training procedures and in the development of field portable analytical instruments which can be used to locate human remains in shallow burial sites.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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