• DFW Medical Waste

Case Study: Human Decomposition in an Apartment



(Courtesy of got needles?, LLC)

The bedding, mattress, and portions of carpet and pad were affected by biological fluids.  A person in their 40s died and was left unattended for over 2 weeks.  This decomposition produced fluids that penetrated the mattress, box springs, carpet, and pad.  The decomposition odor present was very challenging.  


This affected material was segregated as medical waste and contained and the entire area was disinfected multiple times.  Once the top layer of bedding and the pillow top of the mattress were removed, the fluids that settled on the bottom-side of the mattress were exposed.  


The clear labeling on the biologically contaminated material is shown.  This material was sealed in 4 mil plastic for safe transport and labeled in accordance with OSHA Standard 1910.1030 Bloodborne Pathogens.  


Technicians performed decontamination, hygiene remediation, and odor neutralization tasks for over 8 hours.  During this process, multiple sets of personal protective equipment, disinfectant (Shock Wave), and neutralizer (Get the Odor Out) were consumed.  


Mobilization of resources required for this project would take approximately 45 minutes.  This time includes the removal of the personal protective equipment, disinfectants, and the required tools, fill atomizing fogger with odor counteract-ant/secondary disinfectant solution, and corrugated regulated medical waste containers from the responding vehicle after arriving on scene.    


The contamination, blood and bodily fluids, in photos show biological material concentrated on the bed.  


The blood affected material extends to portions of the room near the bed from the removal of bedding material in order for access and removal of the body and movement of the deceased.  The bedding affected by blood and body fluids would be treated with disinfectant and then gathered and placed in the medical waste boxes.  It is also very important to recover the HVAC filter due to odor and then fog accessible air vents.


Once this affected material was captured as medical waste, the technician would then begin to cut the top layer of the mattress affected by blood in order to recover that layer and the layers below it as medical waste.  


After the top layer of the mattress has been cut away due to contamination, the mattress is then flipped in order to gather the affected material on the bottom side.  With all the blood affected material removed from the mattress, the remaining portion of the mattress is then discarded as conventional waste.  Affected portions of carpet are removed and contained in the medical waste boxes. 


Once the floor is exposed, it is then disinfected and then any biological material is removed and contained.  After this biological material containment And disinfection, the portions of the floor affected are sealed with oil base paint.


Decomposition Remediation Basics:

1. Apply PPE

2. Prepare chemicals and apply initial odor treatment and disinfectant

3. Recover blood-affected materials and contain in medical waste boxes with absorbent material for fluid retention, this is a sharps hazards area due to mattress springs and connections

4. Contain and segregate conventional waste in preparation for disposal.

5. Disinfect entire area

6. Cut away layers of affected material until you reach the edge of the biological contamination plume.

7. Contain and segregate medical waste

8. Segregate cleaned, salvageable items


If all of the labor hours associated with this project are billed or included in the project bid at high-risk, then the projected costs will clearly be too high.  The ability to bill the lower-risk labor hours at a lower rate for conventional cleaning tasks gives the contractor pricing flexibility in project bid.  This is only true if the contractor can accurately segregate the high-risk portion of the project and is reasonably close on high-risk projected inputs in the project bid when compared to actual inputs.  Should the contractor preparing the project bid underestimate the high-risk portion of the project, the contractor has put himself or herself at risk of losing money due to a bid amount they have committed to with higher costs than projected.


Supplies and consumables, biohazard regulated medical waste disposal, equipment needed, fuel, and conventional waste disposal are also a part of the inputs that have to be estimated for a total projected cost supporting the project bid.  Supplies are usually billed by the contractor on a per unit basis and high-grade disinfectants and deodorizers are often billed at around $35/quart.  


Personal protective equipment can be billed by the line item or a flat rate per technician of approximately at $95/day/tech.  Equipment charges to the customer from the contractor can also vary in a charge per piece of equipment used or a flat rate per day, $250-$500, for all equipment deployed on the project.


Conventional waste can be billed on a per load basis (approximately 5 cubic yards) for a range of $150 to $300 or the volume of conventional waste could require the use of a roll-off dumpster.  Roll-off dumpsters are often seen at construction sites and vary from 20 cubic yards to 40 cubic yards.  These dumpsters have a billing cost range of $500 to $1,000 based on the area that the 3rd party disposal company is located in.


Biohazard regulated medical waste can vary greatly in price due to different-sized containers the waste is captured in preparation for transport to the disposal facility.  Many traumatic event remediation companies offer a cardboard biohazard box (17”L x 14”W x 20”H) that can hold around 35 pounds maximum.  This capacity is often billed at $200 to $400 per box based on the market and if the contractor is a licensed biohazard medical waste transporter in their state.  Other companies may offer a reusable 50 to 150 gallon capacity container for housing biohazard-affected material and the price is higher associated with this larger capacity.    

The personal protective equipment used on this biohazard remediation project was PureShield high risk gloves, plastic face shields, various respirators, and KleenGuard Ultra Bloodborne pathogen rated suits.  The technicians have been instructed of the hazards associated with the chemicals used, Shockwave MSDS, to comply with OSHA Standard 1910.1200 Hazard Communication.


The air filter was removed and discarded and the return air opening was used to fog the HVAC system with odor neutralizing solution.  The regulated waste  was recovered from the scene and was disposed of in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and a TCEQ Regulated Waste 

Manifest was provided for support.


To neutralize any residual odor, the entire unit was treated with an atomizing fog of Get The Odor Out in multiple applications including the duct of the accessible HVAC system.   At the closing of the project, the entire pathway from the bedroom to the exit in which they removed the body was disinfected including the door knobs and light switches.


In summary, the extended decomposition produced odor that reached the adjoining units in the complex.  Once the body was removed, technicians recoverd the residual biological material and segregated it as medical waste.  After the medical waste was recovered, the entire unit was treated with an atomizing fog of odor neutralizer in multiple applications including the HVAC system.  The medical waste was transported to the treatment facilty for disposal.

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