How long does it take to dissolve a human body?


via slate.com

Assassins for Mexican-American drug cartels have been dissolving their victims’ bodies in chemicals, according to a piece published Tuesday in the New York Times. The process is known colloquially as making pozole, in reference to a traditional Mexican stew. It can take several hours to make a pot of pozole. How long does it take to dissolve a human body?

About the same, with the right chemicals and equipment. The assassins typically use sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, strong bases commonly known as lye. (The Times story misidentified their reagent of choice as an acid.) Heated to 300 degrees, a lye solution can turn a body into tan liquid with the consistency of mineral oil in just three hours. If your kettle isn’t pressurized, you won’t be able to heat the solution much above the boiling point of water, 212 degrees, and it might take an additional hour or two to complete the process. Narco-hit men did not pioneer this technique. Adolph Luetgert, known in his day as the “Sausage King of Chicago,” dumped his wife into a boiling vat of lye in 1897, then burned what was left. Police eventually found bone fragments in the factory’s furnace.

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