Comparison of volatile organic compound profiles of various sources of decomposition
Lavigne, Skye Elizabeth-Hinkley
MetadataShow full item record
The ability to locate human remains, specifically in a forensic setting, is crucial to investigations. Research in the past two decades has identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as the source of the decomposition odor. The study examined the headspace (area directly above) of decomposing remains, Sigma-Aldrich (St. Louis, MO) Pseudo Corpse Scents (formulations one and two), cadaveric blood, and decompositional fluid for target VOCs to which human remains detection (HRD) dogs could indicate. These samples were tested using solid-phase microextraction (SPME) and a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC/MS) for the exact odor profile and compared to literature about VOCs present in decomposition. The author hypothesized that a series of seven target chemical compounds (carbon disulfide, hexanal, nonanal, dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, styrene, and benzoic acid methyl ester) would be present when the headspace of all samples tested. Ideally, a synthetic compound that will better mimic human decomposition odor profile can be created to aid in the training of HRD dogs. There are some disadvantages to using dogs in the field, and the lack of standardization when training HRD dogs is a major one. By examining VOC profiles of different sources of decomposition, a core set of VOCs of human decomposition may be identified to aid in the standardization of training. Of the eight target compounds chosen from the literature, only two were found in any samples tested for this experiment, hexanal and nonanal found in pig heart, deer liver, as well as human muscle and epidermis. Acetic acid was identified in every sample with the exception of the control. Also, in accordance with the literature, putrescine and cadaverine were not found in any of the samples.