Once a person’s breathing stops, the cells in their body stop receiving oxygen, but the cells continue to live for several minutes generating carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is acidic, and it builds up, rupturing sacs inside the cells. These sacs contain enzymes that begin to digest the cells from the inside out. This creates a blister-like fluid rich in nutrients. After about a week, those nutrients fuel an army of bacteria and fungi that further liquefy organs and muscles. The microbes that attack the tissue produce a bewildering array of more than 400 chemicals and gases. They include freon. That’s right, the coolant found in refrigerators. Benzene, a powerful component in gasoline. Sulfur, which smells of swamps and rotten eggs. And the molecule is known as Carbon Tetrachloride, which was used in fire extinguishers and dry cleaning until scientists discovered it’s highly toxic. At this point, there’s very little flesh left, and it’s consumed by… here it comes… maggots and beetles. Insects leave only bones behind. Over time, the protein in bone decomposes too, leaving just the bone mineral called hydroxyapatite, which eventually turns to dust. We can take some solace in the fact that all those nutrients and chemicals, even the dust, provide vital substances that make soils fertile, sprouting plants, and other new life after our lives have ended. For more exciting stuff please subscribe to our Facebook Page.

As for the rate of decomposition there are several factors that will impact that, for example:

  • Age, the younger decomposes quicker than older people a size overweight people decompose faster than an average-weight person.
  • Clothing: naked bodies will decompose faster than if they were clothed.
  • Health: the sick person will decompose faster than healthy
  • Environmental: temperatures in the range of 70 to 99oF results in the quickest decomposition times
  • Location: Decomposition is faster in the air than in water or soil

Basic 5 stages of decomposition progression

Fresh Stage

Starts at the point of death and this continues for the first 2 days. The temperature will fall to ambient which is the surrounding temperature of the individual. The abdomen will start to bloat (start swelling) due to gases produced by the anaerobic bacteria (anaerobic bacteria are bacteria that do not live or grow when oxygen is present. In humans, these bacteria are most commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract). Liver rigor and algor mortis state occurred in this fresh stage. Rigor mortis causes muscle stiffening. Small blisters filled with nutrient-rich fluid begin appearing on internal organs and the skin’s surface. The body will appear to have a sheen due to ruptured blisters, and the skin’s top layer will begin to loosen.

Bloat Stage (Putrefaction)

This is evident by activism micro organisms typically around day 4. The gases will be noticed, skin may turn a greenish coloration this results in skin start to break and fluids may start flowing out of certain openings.

Active Decay (Black Putrefaction)

In this activity case stage, a great loss in mass mainly due to maggot feed. In the course of about 60-day time frame, portions of the skin may turn black, gases will start to escape this stage considered to an end when the maggots leave the body. Fluids released through orifices indicate the beginning of active decay. Organs, muscles, and skin become liquefied. When all of the body’s soft tissue decomposes, hair, bones, cartilage, and other byproducts of decay remain. The cadaver loses the most mass during this stage.

Advanced Decay (Skeletonization)

In this stage, the body begins to dry and preserve itself in the 10 to 20-day time frame. Most of the flesh is gone at this point. Odar and insect activities decrease. The waxy layer may develop and waxy soap-like substance that forms on corpses during decomposition under specific conditions some refer to as Grave Wax. this is the final stage and this is a loss of everything in the body except the dry bones are left from the stage on. For more exciting stuff please subscribe to our Facebook Page.

Estimated Timelines

24-72 hours after death — the internal organs decompose.

3-5 days after death — the body starts to bloat and blood-containing foam leaks from the mouth and nose.

8-10 days after death — the body turns from green to red as the blood decomposes and the organs in the abdomen accumulate gas.

Several weeks after death — nails and teeth fall out.

1 month after death — the body starts to liquify.

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