A study of volatile organic compounds evolved from the decaying human body
SourceForensic science international
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Two men were found dead near the island of Samos, Greece, in the Mediterranean sea. The estimated time of death for both victims was 3-4 weeks. Autopsy revealed no remarkable external injuries or acute poisoning. The exact cause of death remained unclear because the bodies had advanced decomposition. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) evolved from these two corpses were determined by thermal desorption/gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis (TD/GC/MS). Over 80 substances have been identified and quantified. The most prominent among them were dimethyl disulfide (13.39 nmol/L), toluene (10.11 nmol/L), hexane (5.58 nmol/L), benzene 1,2,4-trimethyl (4.04 nmol/L), 2-propanone (3.84 nmol/L), 3-pentanone (3.59 nmol/L). Qualitative and quantitative differences among the evolved VOCs and CO2 mean concentration values might indicate different rates of decomposition between the two bodies. The study of the evolved VOCs appears to be a promising adjunct to the forensic pathologist as they may offer important information which can be used in his final evaluation. © 2004 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.