By Jess Loeffler
Natron- a drying agent, and also a natural salt mixture.
Fats- mostly plant oils, collected from the insides of cattle, sheep, and goats
Vegetable Oils- used as coating over the body, sometimes myrrh was used as well, to mask the smell.
Natron dries the body, making it tough, and also making it a hostile environment for bacteria, slowing decomposition.
Also, as the plant oils and fats dry, the double bonds cross link to form a lattice that keeps out water and bacteria, also slowing down the decomposition.
Since the ingredients are all natural, there really isn't a terrible environmental impact. You know, other than the fact that there are now dead bodies taking up space and not decomposing quickly.
The reactions are exothermic, releasing heat.
Who is affected by this chemistry?
Actually, a lot of people. We've learned a lot from finding mummies, and not just in Egypt. We learn a lot about cultures, and how they did a lot of what they did. For example, some of the oils they used in Egypt had to be imported, therefore, we can assume they had trade routes.
How essential is this chemistry?
Back when they did mummification, it was extremely essential if you were in a very high social class, as it would help you in the afterlife. But now? It's not so important, although Vladimir Lenin had his body preserved in a liquid, which is now displayed in his mausoleum.
Mummies have actually been found pretty much all over the world, even in Northern Europe, because bogs can actually slow decomposition, basically making accidental mummies.
Plastination is a more modern take on mummification, which is taking out water and fat, and replacing them with certain plastics, preserving a body which does not smell or decay.
While researching this, I found tons of articles talking about how King Tut's mummification was screwed up. Turns out, that the embalming oils, mixed with oxygen and linen inside his sarcaphogus, heated his body to roughly 400 degrees.