Preservation at Its Finest
Embalming from natron to formaldehyde
First used to embalm bodies was natron, a mixture sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, sodium carbonate, potassium, and sodium nitrate. From this era a few scientific discoveries were made that led to the use of formic acid as the primary embalming fluid, but it is often added with methanol to counter various damaging effects on the body. These fluids dried out the body and their desired effects was to preserve the body parts. Also used to embalm, glutaraldehyde (C5H8O2) has been shown to result in very advantagous effects, more so than formaldehyde. Glutaraldehyde has been shown to penetrate into body tissue more evenly than formaldehyde and is more apt to the introduction of coloring agents, but depends on concentration, pH, and temperature. Even so, formaldehyde is still the primary embalming fluid in the United States due to glutaraldehyde being very expensive and severely irritating to the eyes and skin.