The effect of the burial environment on adipocere formation

Elsevier Ireland Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal article
Forbes Shari, Stuart Barbara, and Dent Boyd 2005, 'The effect of the burial environment on adipocere formation', Elsevier Ireland Ltd, vol. 154, no. 1, pp. 24-34.
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Adipocere is a decomposition product comprising predominantly saturated fatty acids which results from the hydrolysis and hydrogenation of adipose tissue. Adipocere formation may occur in various decomposition environments but is chiefly dependent on the surrounding conditions. In a soil burial environment these conditions may include such factors as soil pH, temperature, moisture and the oxygen content within the grave site. This study was conducted to investigate the effect of these particular burial factors on the rate and extent of adipocere formation. Controlled laboratory experiments were conducted in an attempt to form adipocere from pig adipose tissue in mock burial environments. Infrared spectroscopy, inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry, and gas chromatography – mass spectrometry were employed to determine the lipid profile and fatty acid composition of the adipocere product which formed in the burial environments. The results suggest that adipocere can form under a variety of burial conditions. Several burial factors were identified as enhancing adipocere formation whilst others clearly inhibited its formation. This study acts as a preliminary investigation into the effect of the burial environment on the resultant preservation of decomposing tissue via adipocere formation.
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