Without exception, decomposition odors are some of the most horrifically foul smells imaginable. Decomposition odors can be so overpowering that they can cause a person to wretch.
Decomposition odors can arise when dies an unattended death and his or her remains are not immediately discovered. The decomposition process commences the minute a person dies.
Overview of the Decomposition Process and Odors
The primary reason decomposition odors occur is because of the accumulation of gases associated with the breakdown of a body. As mentioned a moment ago, the decomposition process commences the moment of death. When a death occurs, bacteria naturally existing in a human body lose their supply of nutrients, which had been provided via the blood system. As a result, these bacteria begin “feeding” on the body itself, beginning with the pancreas and intestines.
Within a day or two, bacteria will breakdown the pancreas and intestines. When this occurs, these organs no longer contain the bacteria, which ends up moving throughout the body.
Within a couple of days, malodorous and potentially dangerous gases expel from the body. These gases can contain harmful biological material, in addition to smelling foul.
Comprehensive Unattended Death Clean Up
Deodorizing, or eliminating decomposition of what is known as biohazard remediation. There are a number of stages in restoring a room to habitability in the aftermath of an unattended death. These stages are:
The goal of these stages is to return the premises to full habitability following an unattended death, and the associated decomposition of the remains.
Removal of the Remains
The first step in eliminating decomposition odors is the removal of the remains. When an unattended death occurs, there is a certain process in the state of California that is followed when it comes to body removal.
If you discover the remains of a person who experienced an unattended death, and there is no doubt the individual is deceased, withdraw from the room in which the body is situated. Do not have any physical contact with the remains because a human body in a state of decomposition represents a biohazard.
Once you are away from the body, contact emergency personnel by phoning 911. Explain the situation. In most cases, both law enforcement and emergency personnel will be dispatched to the scene. In some instances, identifying the cause of an unattended death is not immediately possible.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the unattended death, the coroner or law enforcement may have the authority to release the death scene for proper unattended death cleanup, sanitation, and deodorization.
Universal, comprehensive precautions must be taken when it comes to the removal of a body, as well as in regard to clean up and sanitizing the scene. These precautions include the use of:
- Mask (or respirator)
- Smock or apron
Unattended Death Clean Up and Sanitizing
Once the body is removed from the scene, bodily fluids and microorganisms are likely to remain, these need to be eliminated as part of the overall unattended death clean up process. If death occurred more than a couple of days previously, there likely will be bodily fluids present outside the remains.
Before specific focus is placed on deodorization, these dangerous materials must be addressed. This is accomplished by utilizing appropriate cleaning and sanitizing agents. These are not types of products you likely maintain in your home. They are the types of cleaning and sanitizing products that are utilized by professional biohazard remediation services.
Deodorizing the Site of an Unattended Death
Once the cleanup and sanitizing process are complete, the premises in which an unattended death occurred should be safe. The biohazards have been eliminated or neutralized.
Because of the pervasiveness of a decomposition odor, a commercial deodorizing product, or products, is the order to the day. As is the case with cleaning and sanitizing agents, this type of product is utilized by a professional biohazard remediation service. There are some enzymic cleaners and washes available on the market that might provide some assistance in eliminating decomposition odors.
Some people recommend using ozone-generating air purifiers as a means to eliminate decomposition odors. The California Air Resources Board is against using an ozone generator. The agency has concluded that an ozone generator can cause health problems.
The Board has promulgated regulations limiting the use of these generators in a residence. In addition, the Board has created a list of certified air cleaners that are in compliance with the agency’s regulations. These devices may provide at least partial elimination of decomposition odors.
Restoration to Full Habitability
In the final analysis, you simply cannot fully utilize a space in which decomposition odors linger. Perhaps after an extended period of time, the foul smell will dissipate. However, until that might happen, the space in question is not truly usable. Moreover, the lingering odor becomes a perpetual reminder of the troubling circumstances of an unattended death.