How does the use of formaldehyde in embalming affect the environment?

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jgeertz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Embalming is the process of treating a corpse with a solution of chemicals that includes formaldehyde, gutaraldehyde, phenol, and more. This is done to preserve the body and prevent it from decomposing for the final viewing and farewells. The problem is formaldehyde is a carcinogen. The mortician as well as the manufacturers must take special precautions to limit their exposure.

Some people are concerned about what the environmental impact could be when an estimated 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid is buried in the United States alone every year. Once formaldehyde has been used in embalming fluid, it has been claimed that the formaldehyde becomes chemically inert. Even so, many people nowadays are choosing "green" funerals that use no preservatives or embalming fluid and biodegradable coffins to preserve resources and the environment for future generations.