An investigation of the degradation of polymeric grave goods in soil environments

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Soil in Criminal and Environmental Forensics. Soil Forensics, 2016, pp. 331 - 341
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Plastic materials are a source of items that may be located in clandestine grave sites. Knowledge of their type and state of preservation or deterioration may provide a valuable resource for the identification of a victim or perpetrator. This study involves an examination of the effect of the nature of the soil environment on the structural properties of two common polymers, poly(vinyl chloride) and nylon, over a period of 18 months. These polymers represent common types of plastic sheeting and carpet material that may be used to wrap a body. Infrared spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy have been used to monitor the structural changes that occur to these polymers in a soil environment and degradation mechanisms are proposed.
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