Quicklime and Decomposition
There is a long-held belief that applying quicklime to a buried body will accelerate decomposition. Maybe it is the use of quicklime or slack lime in outhouses to control odor but it does not cause rapid decomposition as reported in many sources. This fact has been documented by scientific research since the 1930’s at least.
The preservation of tissue is the result of dehydration which does not allow for bacterial growth normally seen in decomposition. The more lime used, the better the preservation. When mixed with water and air (as in a shallow grave) can cause a shrinkage of tissue and the lime may even have a solvent effect but connective tissue. bone, hair, etc would not be damaged much.
I’m not suggesting that bodies buried in quicklime will look pristine but they will not rapidly deteriorate as some criminals believe. Lime does not deter animal scavenging either. I have done studies on bodies buried in quicklime and have seen rodent burrowing within a few months of burial.
If your novel contains a burial with quicklime you should be aware of its preservation effects. If you want to use the misinformation to your advantage then have your killer use it to destroy evidence. Then when they discover that it helped to preserve the body maybe they have to take more drastic steps to thwart the police.
Posted on September 30, 2011, in The Autopsy, The Crime Scene and tagged burial, Clandestine Grave, Crime Scene, csi, decomposition, detective, fiction, forensics, medical examiner, murder, mystery, police, quicklime, thriller, tom adair. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.