Families and individuals facing a tragedy, whether it be a suicide, unattended death, homicide, or another situation involving a corpse, are generally unable to enter the premises even after the corpse has been removed. Decaying organic matter left behind from the remains is left until a trained professional cleanup company can remove and restore it. With decaying organic matter comes the infamous decomposition odor. Decomposition odor is a big reason why a building might be condemned as hazardous–though the exact reasons why are poorly understood.
Although some may have allergic reactions to the smell, the smell itself doesn’t cause respiratory disease. As death odor remediators for over 20 years, we’ll explain in greater detail how these odors can be considered harmful. Firstly, the smell can cause emotional trauma, since smelling a dead body raises similar mental alarm, anxiety, and torment as seeing a dead body. Secondly, an odor can indicate the growing presence of bacteria, pathogens, and pests that feed off the decaying matter and create unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
A building may be condemned as an emergency situation because it only takes a few hours for the growth of bacteria and pests to take over an area. That’s also why you’d want to call a cleanup company like SCU as early as possible.
Since most of the harmful pathogenic material can’t be seen by the naked eye, it’s important to limit exposure as much as possible. The use of special equipment and cleaning supplies are best used for these situations and teams like Suicide Cleanup are certified and equipped to help protect the public and keep families already grieving safe during emergencies like these.
The smell of decomposition has been compared to “rotting cabbage, rotten eggs, human feces”–and others have even described it as way more intense. When putrefaction sets in (typically within 24-48 hours), you’ll likely recognize the odor as a sickly, sweet smell. It may even smell like rotting eggs or a strong musty, earthy swamp smell.
In 99% of the cases, you’ll just know. Humans have an innate ability to distinguish these types of odors. Human instinct is pretty strong and reliable–definitely trust them here.
Sometimes you may hear decomposition odors referred to as “putrefaction” odors. This is because a corpse undergoes several stages of decomposition. During the first stage of decomposition, odors develop with putrefaction. Putrefaction refers to the enzymatic breakdown of organic matter by potentially harmful bacteria. The process does not stop until the remains are completely decomposed or discarded by a professional crew.
Although some studies found that inhaling the odor triggers a fight-or-flight or emotional response in the human body, there is no evidence that the odors do anything more than that. The risk of illness and disease stems from the bacteria responsible for the fumes and the pests that are drawn in by the fumes. Naturally, as the amount of bacteria and pests grow, so does the area considered a health risk.
During putrefaction, several species of harmful bacteria contribute to the breakdown of a decaying carcass. If any of these sound familiar, it’s because many of these species are also responsible for illnesses related to rancid meat in the food industry. In fact, most of the following were originally identified or made famous for causing foodborne diseases in commercial restaurants and kitchens.
Decomposition fumes can also attract the unwanted presence of pests as they look for food to feed off the cadaver or lay eggs. Some of the scavenging pests that may appear on a cadaver can include:
There are not many cases where humans have contracted specific respiratory diseases or issues as a result of breathing in decomposition fumes. While some have had allergic reactions, the main concern should be focused on the growth of bacteria that can’t be seen by the naked eye.
If the odor itself doesn’t cause any physical damage, why has it been found to put people on edge? Perhaps the human body has evolved to acknowledge the fumes as a warning signal for what can’t be seen by the naked eye. Alternatively, could be indicative of a problem research has yet to discover. Or maybe it’s as simple as it’s such an intense putrid smell that it invokes a physical reaction.
Whatever the reason might be, take it as a scientific reason to trust your instincts with this one.
Absolutely treat the situation as an emergency. Vacate the property immediately and condemn it to prevent further access from the public. The longer the situation remains a risk, the deeper the damage and the risk of contracting an illness or disease from exposure. As we’ve mentioned, exposure to these situations must be limited.
A trained and certified professional team has special treatment methods, personal protection equipment (PPE), HEPA vacuums, and ozone machines specially made to treat the area. Call an established professional biohazard remediation crew like Suicide Cleanup (SCU). SCU has been operating for over 20 years and is available in all of the contiguous United States on a 24/7 emergency basis. Call us for immediate help.