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Author Topic: how quickly do human bodies decompose?  (Read 16146 times)

Offline kdlynn

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« on: 05/08/2007 07:36:29 »
on average, at room temperature, how long would it take?


 

Offline Karen W.

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #1 on: 05/08/2007 12:25:41 »
Rigormortis sets in pretty fast so I would consider that the first step in decomposition but I really don't know that would be my guess! I think it is  a matter of a few hours..
 

Offline chris

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #2 on: 05/08/2007 12:37:55 »
This depends entirely upon the environment in which the body is "stored" - in a warm wet environment decomposition will be much more rapid than in a chest freezer in your basement!

Decomposition is brought about by the action of micro-organisms (and some bigger creatures such as maggots; we'll ignore scavengers pulling bodies to pieces). Their action is faster at higher temperatures.

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Offline Bored chemist

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #3 on: 05/08/2007 14:20:04 »
If your chest freezer is at roome temperature then I sugest you switch it on.
I can't see a mechanism for the bones decomposing if they are dry so they would last "forever" indoors. Depending on the conditions the body may prety much mummify so it might be still there after a few millennia.
 

Offline kdlynn

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #4 on: 05/08/2007 17:19:32 »
ok... how does embalming change this process?
 

Offline chris

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #5 on: 05/08/2007 21:32:38 »
Embalming invovles perfusing the tissues, via the blood stream, with a fixative such as formalin (formaldehyde). This strongly cross-links all of the proteins in cells and tissues, making them very stable and resistant to degradation. It also suppresses the growth of microbes, preventing the embalmed body from "going off" i.e. getting smelly.

Chris
 

Offline Karen W.

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #6 on: 05/08/2007 21:54:07 »
Thanks Chris.. I never thought about the conditions and temperatures.. When My father in law passed in the night he was sitting up, but he did not fall or slump over he was sitting on the edge of the bed... he was a very large man and was leaned forward a bit when my Daughter found him.. She was in the sixth grade or so.. she had opened the door to ask Grandpa if he was going to eat lunch with us.. She came and got me and when I saw him.. I immediately knew he was dead, as the expression on his face was horrid and he was frozen in that shocking position and look. I checked him and he was quite cold and his body was already becoming quite stiff. He had gone to bed at 8:30 PM or so and had gotten partly undressed.. we did not find him until around 11:oo AM as we thought he was asleep....I had to lie him down and try to cover him so the children would be less alarmed.. It did not help.. it was horrible..  He had congestive heart failure and real bad diabetes.. I was shocked by how  quickly he become stiff.. Sorry for the bluntness.. It was winter and very cold in the house!
 

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #7 on: 06/08/2007 07:29:00 »
The forensics of human decomp. is quite a fascinating subject.

Decomposition is the continual process of gradual decay and disorganization of organic tissues and structures after death. Some tissues, such as bones, teeth, and hair, are more resistant to the action of microorganisms and other environmental factors and may last for centuries

Even more fascinating are coffin births:

Coffin birth (first defined by the German term sarg geburt) is the phrase used by coroners to explain the medical phenomenon when a pregnant woman spontaneously delivers her child after her own untimely death. The spontaneous birth happens when naturally expanding gases, built up in the abdominal and pelvic areas of a decomposing (pregnant) corpse, place sufficient pressure on the mother's uterus to force an unborn baby through the birth passageway and out the vagina. Coffin births have occurred throughout human history, with paleopathologic scientists discovering instances of coffin birth in ancient countries of what is now called the continent of Europe. However, with modern embalming techniques, the occurrence of coffin birth is very rare. On the other hand, coffin births still happen when (for example) accidental deaths and murders occur or in the unlikely situation where incorrect embalming procedures are performed.
 

Offline Karen W.

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #8 on: 06/08/2007 08:47:51 »
Oh My goodness.. I would never have thought about that! How sad..even though the baby is dead it is so sad that that baby had to emerge in such a condition..Oh my.
 

Offline chris

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #9 on: 06/08/2007 09:28:23 »
Rigor mortis (stiffness is death) is actually only temporary. It's caused by sustained muscle contraction, rather like a total body cramp, and it passes, depending upon temperature, in 36-72 hours.

The mechanism unerlying rigor is that muscles require energy (ATP) in order to RELAX after they have contracted. The muscle protein myosin behaves like a miniature grappling hook and drags itself along a second protein called actin. This dragging motion is powered by "myosin heads" which work rather like a ratchet, and the detachment to reset the ratchet is energy dependent.

When someone dies their cells quickly begin to run short of ATP, meaning that their muscles cannot relax and they develop a sustained contraction in all muscle groups of the body. This comes to an end (the end of rigor) when the muscle proteins themselves begin to degenerate so tehy can no longer maintain their attachment to each other. At this point the muscle relaxes again, and the body becomes floppy and mobile.

Chris
 

Offline Karen W.

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #10 on: 06/08/2007 17:57:50 »
Thats very interesting I did not know that... Thanks Chris! Thanks also for proper spelling of Rigor mortis. I prepared my mom after her death washed and cleaned her and readied her for the mortuary. It was only an hour after her death perhaps slightly longer time is so weird during death and It is hard to recall the timing but it was very early Am hours. Rigor mortis had not set in yet! My father in law was different! That is a great explanation!
 

Offline RD

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #11 on: 06/08/2007 18:42:10 »
Hair and nails continuing to grow after death is a myth ...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/ask_the_doctor/decompostionafterdeath.shtml
 

Offline OZ

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #12 on: 23/08/2007 22:21:23 »
apparantly bodies decompose much slower today than say 60 years or so back, because by the time we die our bodies are full of preservatives, which wasnt an issue previously
 

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how quickly do human bodies decompose?
« Reply #12 on: 23/08/2007 22:21:23 »

 

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