“What’s That Smell?”

Shannon writes:

Recently, a man died in the apartment above mine. He was dead for several days – at first we thought his refrigerator died, and contacted our landlord. But, the next day, when blood and bodily fluids started dripping from our bathroom and kitchen ceiling – we telephoned the police.

A Hazmat team is currently working on removing the contaminated bits of the house, while we stay in a hotel.

Once they are finished, how concerned should we be that that awful smell will return – say, when the heat is cranked, or on a hot summer day?


Thanks for sharing your unique experience. I may have stood in pools of body fluids and have been dripped on by the same on numerous occasions, but I can’t imagine how revolting it would be if it happened in my own home.

I’ve always been amazed at how often it happens that someone isn’t discovered dead until the person in the adjoining apartment notices a foul smell. I’m equally amazed at how long that person can tolerate the smell before notifying anyone. I’ve worked scenes where the neighbor had put up with the smell for weeks. From my point of view, it seems to happen all the time. I suppose it’s so common because there are so many single people who live in apartments. It’s been my experience that there are many of these single folk living in relative isolation from the rest of the world. Virtually no one calls them or visits, so no one discovers them until they’ve been dead for quite some time. Ordinarily it’s the apartment manager who discovers them when the neighbors begin to complain.

“Crime Scene? clean up services and the like will generally remove all of the biohazardous material that is present. Pools of blood and other bodily fluids will be cleaned up. Bloodstains will be washed off of surfaces like walls and floors and those that are soaked into surfaces like carpet, padding, bedding, and furniture will simply be removed from the premises entirely and disposed of.

Of course, not every contaminated article can be removed from the scene. In your case, floor joists and such are likely stained but cannot be removed without great effort and expense. The stains on those will likely just be chemically neutralized so that there is no immediate contact threat.

As for the smell, I wouldn’t expect there to be any down the road unless some of the fluid made it’s way into your heating and air system and went undiscovered during the clean up. The smell might linger even after the offending by-products of human decomposition have been removed, but the only truly effective way to remove smell is time. Exposure to air circulation and scented candles can certainly speed up the process though.

Thanks again for the comment. I hope that answers your question.

A Douglas


1 Response to ““What’s That Smell?””

  1. December 7, 2005 at 2:25 pm

    I always wondered about those scenarios.

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