Mortuary workers have a lot to contend with, and unpleasant odours were part of the deal in the province’s mortuaries—until the Gauteng Shared Services Centre appointed Ozone Services Industries (OSI) as a vendor to supply all the Forensic Pathology Mortuaries and many of the government hospitals with deodorising and sanitising equipment.

OSI’s solution uses ozone and ultra violet technology to destroy odour-causing bacteria on the surface of cadavers.

“We often have to store bodies for an extended period of time, and even with refrigeration the mortuary has a distinct and unpleasant odour,” explains John Masupe, chief forensic officer at Sebokeng Mortuary. “The installation of the OSI units has dramatically reduced the odours, and has also reduced the risk of infection for mortuary workers.”

Ian Wright, MD of OSI, explains that ozone is enriched oxygen and acts as a powerful, natural purifier. “Ozone is a short-lived molecule that deodorises many organic and inorganic odours, whether they are in gaseous or in the form of particles. The process is called oxidation, and it converts the odours permanently into water vapour, carbon dioxide and other compounds. It also kills germs by breaking down their protein structures.”

Wright adds that while eliminating bacteria is a difficult process, most of the germs that cause contamination are found on the outside surfaces. “Because they are exposed, the ozone treatment is highly effective,” he says. “Even a small amount of ozone is effective.”

In addition, rinsing the bodies with ozone-enriched water helps reduce the numbers of bacteria on the body surface considerably. Destroying the bacteria has the effect of retarding decomposition, lengthening the preservation of the body considerably. This is a huge benefit given the backlog in autopsies, and the fact that many bodies lie unclaimed for long periods.

Masupe says that since the ozone units have been installed and the air purified, staff morale has improved. “This is a very demanding and stressful job, as you can imagine,” he says.

“Not having to deal with strong, unpleasant odours makes a huge difference to all of us who work in mortuaries. Rolling out these units to hospitals, clinics and private mortuaries will also be beneficial. They could also be useful in purifying the air in government offices that deal with large numbers of people every day, such as Home Affairs.”