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Author: Subject: Forensic indicators of nitrogen asphyxiation?
killswitch
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[*] posted on 15-8-2012 at 13:16
Forensic indicators of nitrogen asphyxiation?


Nitrogen presents a unique hazard in the laboratory due to the insidious nature of nitrogen asphyxiation. If there is an open dewar in the room, bending over and fumbling around under one's desk to pick up a dropped pencil could conceivably result in unconsciousness and death. Argon and helium pose identical dangers but are more expensive and thus less common.

Nitrogen asphyxiation as a cause of death is usually obvious: a lab technician who carries a nitrogen dewar into an elevator (in violation of universal safety procedure), a worker who wanders into a section of a peanut oil warehouse that has been blanketed in nitrogen to prevent spoilage, etc. And of course, it would be a recognized occupational hazard at an air liquefaction plant, complete with posters on the break room wall, monthly or even weekly safety training, etc.

But what if the body were moved, or the source of nitrogen removed and the body not discovered until the inert blanket has dissipated? Are there forensic methods for determining nitrogen asphyxiation as cause of death, as opposed to, say, some other form of apnea?

I would assume that carbon dioxide levels in the blood would plummet, leading to hypocapnia. I'm speculating that a higher blood pH would retard putrefaction somewhat, but wouldn't it accelerate autolysis by destabilizing cell membranes? And would that release compounds that would lower the pH again? Also, are there mechanisms (bacterial, environmental, or autolytic) whereby carbon dioxide could be quickly reintroduced to the body? (Other than diffusion, which would obviously not produce concentrations that approached anywhere near those naturally found in the bloodstream).

In short, what kind of indicators would give away nitrogen asphyxiation if the only evidence were the cadaver itself? And how quickly would the body have to be discovered and autopsied to find those indicators?

[Edited on 15-8-2012 by killswitch]
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pedrovecchio
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[*] posted on 12-10-2012 at 20:11


Try to look here for answers:

http://journals.lww.com/amjforensicmedicine/Abstract/2008/09...

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/03790738950...

http://journals.lww.com/amjforensicmedicine/Abstract/2002/03...

If you can't get the papers, try asking in the References section.

[Edited on 13-10-2012 by pedrovecchio]
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hissingnoise
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[*] posted on 14-10-2012 at 05:04


Quote:
In short, what kind of indicators would give away nitrogen asphyxiation if the only evidence were the cadaver itself? And how quickly would the body have to be discovered and autopsied to find those indicators?

Unsettling questions, killswitch . . .
I'd be reticent to give an answer ─ even having one!

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pedrovecchio
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[*] posted on 14-10-2012 at 16:51


Why hide information, hissingnoise? The answers to killswitch's questions are readily available in the literature, as in the three papers I linked above. Its 2012 now: hiding information, "dangerous" or not, is impossible.
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