Macroscopic observations of the effects of corrosive substances on bone and soft tissue when subjected to heating
Cadwell, Lindsey M.
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As forensic techniques employed in homicide investigation are refined, so are the methods by which perpetrators of these crimes attempt to eliminate evidence that could lead to their prosecution. Acid submersion is an increasingly popular method of body disposal due to its highly destructive effects upon organic tissues and their suitability for macroscopic analyses that could enable positive identification. Sixteen fleshed pig (Sus scrofa) forelimbs were submerged in hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide (n = 2 per trial) under control conditions and heated to 40˚C or 100˚C, to determine whether dissolution of all tissues was possible quickly enough to ensure a practical method of disposal, and whether heating would accelerate this process. Hydrochloric acid (31-35%) under control conditions failed to dissolve all soft tissues, but destroyed all bones within 68 hours; at 40˚C the soft tissues still were not entirely dissolved, but all bones were destroyed within 24 hours. Sulfuric acid (93%) under control conditions destroyed all soft tissue within 52 hours and all bones within 28 days. Sulfuric acid at 40˚C destroyed all soft tissue in 2.75 hours and all bones within nine days; at 100˚C all soft tissues were destroyed within 0.75 hour and all bones within nine hours. Sodium hydroxide (20-30%) failed to dissolve the soft and hard tissues in all trials, but the rapidity of alterations observed was positively correlated to temperature. The present research indicates that these chemicals can destroy large, fleshed body parts and that this destruction can be accelerated through heating.