3 Facts About Embalming You Will Want to Remember

The traditional burial in the United States involves either embalming and a casket or cremation. Many families choose to have their loved one embalmed to keep them more life-like for the viewing and funeral. In reality, it is actually one of the least eco-friendly burial methods. The process requires tons of resources if you want to have your relative embalmed and placed to rest in a casket. Every year in the United States, we use 800,000 gallons formaldehyde for funeral purposes. We also add 30 million board feet of hardwoods, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, and 104,272 tons of steel in the ground with our deceased relatives. Here are three facts specifically about embalming for you to remember.

The Embalming Process Is Dangerous

All embalming fluids are formaldehyde-based but are essentially a chemical cocktail. Other chemicals in this concoction are phenol, methanol, and glycerin. Each of these chemicals is irritating to the skin and even more dangerous if ingested. On top of that, the EPA recognizes formaldehyde as a human carcinogen, meaning that excessive exposure causes cancer. In fact, a study by the National Cancer Institute shows that funeral directors have a higher risk of myeloid leukemia. This is because they spend much more time around those chemicals than the rest of the public. These chemicals can also cause problems in the ground because of their high concentration. This is especially true when embalmed persons are all buried in the same plot of land.

It Racks Up Funeral Costs

The funeral industry has made embalming prevalent in the United States and Canada. They say the process gives the body proper respect and allows family members and friends to grieve properly by seeing the body. It is true that for some people, seeing the body is helpful in their grieving process. Others have negative experiences seeing an embalmed body because of the evident work that went into making their loved one look more lifelike. Now that this method of burial is prevalent in these countries, many people feel that they need to embalm their relatives. This process requires the family to spend more on their funeral expenses, adding up to an additional 3,000 dollars in expenses. After selling the embalming process, funeral directors will also offer more expensive caskets. Families can easily spend more money than needed.

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You Are Not Required to Embalm

A common myth that many people believe is that embalming prevents the spread of diseases. This may come from as far back as the days of the plague when people believed you could “catch death.” In reality, the CDC states that this process does not affect public health in the slightest. You do not need to be embalm a loved one as a part of their burial process and there are few instances that require it. For example, some states require embalming if they will be entering their state for burial. Some also require it if you are crossing state lines for the burial. Oftentimes though, funeral directors will recommend the process if the person died more than 10 days ago or if you delay the funeral.


Choosing to have a loved one embalmed does preserve the body longer, but the process requires using toxic chemicals. This can harm the mortician as well as the environment. Though this process is traditional in the US and Canada, most places in the world do not embalm their dead. This is because it is not required. There are much more eco-friendly burial options for you to consider. Some are pretty extreme, but you can be as green as you want to be for your funeral.

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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