Background and aims: Looking for evidence on cadavers goes beyond what is visible – genetics is but one example. But how useful can looking for microscopic residues be on dead bodies in order to detect clues concerning the environment a victim encountered upon or just before death? Is it possible that microscopic residues may indicate an outdoor environment, industrial areas (for example containing cement) or a field of maize? Should we therefore change autopsy protocols and check skin for microscopic clues? Given the lack of literature, the present pilot study was devised in order to verify to what extent sampling on skin can convey interesting data. Materials and methods: stubs for SEM-EDX (Scanning Electron Microscopy coupled with Energy Dispersive X Ray Spectrometry) were taken on the skin of a total of 27 bodies subjected to autopsy found in known environments (eg. home, road, garden, hospital, railway) all different from each other, in two different seasons (summer and winter), aged between 20 and 94 years. Two samples were taken from areas covered by clothes (thorax and back), other two from uncovered areas (face and hand) by means of stubbing with a circular adhesive tape of graphite (diameter 1cm). Skin samples were coated with graphite and analyzed by Cambridge Stereoscan 360 and EDS spectrometry. Fragments of adhesive tape, not applied to the skin surface, were used as negative controls. Results: a wide variability and quantity of residues and elements were detected on covered with respect to uncovered skin, covered areas showing on average less particles than the uncovered ones, especially for what concerns elements such as iron, calcium, sodium, magnesium, chrome (frequently in a statistically significant manner (p<0.05)). Specific environments were related to the presence of particular residues. For example stainless steel particles were found on the uncovered areas of a victim run over by a train; fertilizers on a body in a field, Pb and Sr on a body in a shooting range. Conclusions: Differences between samples performed on covered and uncovered skin areas confirm the tight link between body and environment. The characterization of the residues on the skin may provide useful information for the reconstruction of events. The study highlights the importance of further research in this area but at the same time the need to consider autopsy strategies for sampling bodies for such indicators.

SEM-EDS analysis on the skin of cadavers for the detection of environmental residues / G. Caccia, D. Mazzarelli, V. Caruso, A. Amadasi, D. Merli, F. Conforti, A. Rizzi, D. Gibelli, C. Cattaneo. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Symposium of the International Academy of Legal Medicine (IALM) tenutosi a Venezia nel 2016.

SEM-EDS analysis on the skin of cadavers for the detection of environmental residues

G. Caccia;D. Mazzarelli;V. Caruso;A. Amadasi;D. Merli;D. Gibelli;C. Cattaneo
2016

Abstract

Background and aims: Looking for evidence on cadavers goes beyond what is visible – genetics is but one example. But how useful can looking for microscopic residues be on dead bodies in order to detect clues concerning the environment a victim encountered upon or just before death? Is it possible that microscopic residues may indicate an outdoor environment, industrial areas (for example containing cement) or a field of maize? Should we therefore change autopsy protocols and check skin for microscopic clues? Given the lack of literature, the present pilot study was devised in order to verify to what extent sampling on skin can convey interesting data. Materials and methods: stubs for SEM-EDX (Scanning Electron Microscopy coupled with Energy Dispersive X Ray Spectrometry) were taken on the skin of a total of 27 bodies subjected to autopsy found in known environments (eg. home, road, garden, hospital, railway) all different from each other, in two different seasons (summer and winter), aged between 20 and 94 years. Two samples were taken from areas covered by clothes (thorax and back), other two from uncovered areas (face and hand) by means of stubbing with a circular adhesive tape of graphite (diameter 1cm). Skin samples were coated with graphite and analyzed by Cambridge Stereoscan 360 and EDS spectrometry. Fragments of adhesive tape, not applied to the skin surface, were used as negative controls. Results: a wide variability and quantity of residues and elements were detected on covered with respect to uncovered skin, covered areas showing on average less particles than the uncovered ones, especially for what concerns elements such as iron, calcium, sodium, magnesium, chrome (frequently in a statistically significant manner (p<0.05)). Specific environments were related to the presence of particular residues. For example stainless steel particles were found on the uncovered areas of a victim run over by a train; fertilizers on a body in a field, Pb and Sr on a body in a shooting range. Conclusions: Differences between samples performed on covered and uncovered skin areas confirm the tight link between body and environment. The characterization of the residues on the skin may provide useful information for the reconstruction of events. The study highlights the importance of further research in this area but at the same time the need to consider autopsy strategies for sampling bodies for such indicators.
forensic pathology, SEM-EDS, residues, skin
Settore BIO/08 - Antropologia
SEM-EDS analysis on the skin of cadavers for the detection of environmental residues / G. Caccia, D. Mazzarelli, V. Caruso, A. Amadasi, D. Merli, F. Conforti, A. Rizzi, D. Gibelli, C. Cattaneo. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Symposium of the International Academy of Legal Medicine (IALM) tenutosi a Venezia nel 2016.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/810667
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