When people pass they go in many ways. When their spirit, their life leaves their body, the remains however progress in one well-understood path through decomposition. Today on the BIOClean Team blog we want to go over the timeline of and process of decomposition of the human body.
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The Stages of Decomposition
Decomposition is a completely natural, normal process. At death, the heart and lungs stop operating and with that blood stops pumping, oxygen stops flowing and tissues throughout the body begin to break down. There are four stages of decomposition, the rate the body goes through will differ, depending on various factors like weather, moisture, temperature, even position of the body. All of these have an impact on the speed of the decomposition, but all four stages still occur.
What are the Four Stages of Decomposition
To be specific we are talking human decomposition here. While we’re experts on biohazard cleaning, we’re not experts on the ways everything decays and decomposes so that should be mentioned. The four stages of decomposition are: autolysis, bloat, active decay, and skeletonization.
Here’s what those stages encompass.
Autolysis is the first stage of decomp and takes place immediately after death, usually at about 4 minutes or so. Autolysis is when the tissues begin to be destroyed and broken down by their own enzymes. This occurs because respiration and blood circulation have stopped, the body no longer is removing waste and providing new oxygen. The carbon dioide builds, creating an acidic atmosphere, the cell membranes (the walls of the cell) break apart and letting out enzymes that then digest the cells from the inside.
Rigor mortis also starts in this stage. A bunch of different chemical reactions happens in the muscles causing them to stiffen
Gases begin to build due to the leaking enzymes and material during autolysis. The bacteria produce a sulfur-containing compound that leads to discoloration as well. During the bloat stage, the human body can double in size. All of this leads to putrefaction and extremely bad smells. Frequently this odor is what will attract attention from others. These smells can also linger long after the body has been taken away.
After bloat, active decay sets in. When all of the body’s soft tissues decompose, organs, muscles, and skin liquefy. Hair, bones, cartilage, and some other materials remain. During the active decay stage, the body loses most of the mass.
After the active decay stage, skeletonization occurs. This is when all of the matter decays away leaving nothing but bones behind. There is no set timeframe for when skeletonization will occur since it is so heavily based on the loss of the other parts.
Basic Timeline of Body Decomposition
- 1-3 days after death — organs decompose.
- 3-5 days after death — the body starts to bloat. Foam containing blood leaks from the nose and mouth. The body discolors, turning green.
- 8-10 days after death — the body further discolors from green to red as blood decomposes and gas accumulates.
- Several weeks after death — nails and teeth fall out as the tissues surrounding them have decomposed completely.
- 1 month after death — the body begins to liquify.
The process begins fast, and it doesn’t get any better or easier to handle as it goes on. As soon as smell as developed there will need to be serious remediation to make the space habitable again.