Companies tackle mess a corpse can leave behind
by Staci Giordullo
What happens to those who die alone — and no one notices? Welcome to the business of biohazard remediation. Originally limited to crime and trauma scene cleaning, the industry's scope has grown to include decontamination of homes soiled by human waste, tissue and body fluids, and other toxins associated with a decomposing body.
Ronald Gospodarski, owner of Bio-Recovery Corp. in New York City, started his business in 1988 after spending years as a paramedic and realizing no company was offering these types of services.
"No one is prepared for this type of thing," he says. "I come in and solve the problem."
According to Gospodarski, approximately 75 percent of his business is cleaning up after decompositions.
"I get calls from family, police, landlords — a lot of times it's the property manager," he says.
Stacie Salerno of Bradford, Pa., recently hired Gospodarski to clean her brother's apartment after he was stabbed to death, reportedly by a stranger police believe he likely met online. "I never knew this kind of company even existed," Salerno says. "But they took care of everything. You never would know there was a murder in that apartment."
Like many other industries, the prerequisites to be a bio-recovery technician vary greatly by state. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires proper training in order to handle blood-borne pathogens. In addition, companies should hold the proper permits for biohazard waste disposal as well as general liability and pollution liability insurance.
Dale Cillian, president of the American Bio-Recovery Association, says the lack of a nationwide standard is unnerving because there are companies that grossly overcharge customers and don't thoroughly clean or properly dispose of the waste.
"Some of these companies will rob people blind," Cillian says. "They're hurting families at the worst time of their lives." Gospodarski, who's certified with the ABRA, agrees and says his average job costs between $1,500 and $3,500. "Customers need to do their due diligence before hiring a company like mine," he says.
Industry experts recommend verifying companies with ABRA — which has 80 members — Angie's List and the BBB.
While a coroner typically removes the body before the biohazard remediation team arrives, there are a number of threats left behind — many of which go unnoticed by the untrained eye.
"We see marks of contamination affected during the removal of the body such as fluid from the body bag touching walls and furniture," says John DiGulio, co-founder of USA Decon in Houston. "Light switches and door handles are usually left unclean."
Hiring a professional to clean up such a mess can lift an emotional burden from grieving family members. "There aren't many jobs in which you can provide unimaginable relief for someone," DiGulio says.