The formation of adipocere in model aquatic environments

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Legal Medicine, 2016, 130 (1), pp. 281 - 286
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© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. An examination of the chemistry of adipocere formation in aquatic systems provides insight into how environmental factors affect the decomposition processes of human remains. Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) have been employed to monitor the changes to the chemistry of adipocere formed in aquatic environments used to model seawater, river and chlorinated water systems. Seawater was shown to inhibit adipocere formation, and a distinctively different elemental composition was produced in this environment due to the high concentrations of salts. By comparison, river water has been shown to accelerate the formation of adipocere. Chlorinated water appears to significantly enhance adipocere formation, based on a comparison with established fatty acid concentration values. However, a competing reaction to form chlorohydrins in chlorinated water is believed to be responsible for the unusual findings in this environment. The application of the chemical characterisation of adipocere to an understanding of how this particular decomposition product forms in different water environments has been demonstrated, and there is potential to utilise this approach to identify the environment in which a body has been immersed.
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