Preserving Bodies and Formaldehyde

Group Leader:  Gerald C.
Co-pilot: Davy G.

Ancient Practices fifth century B.C.E.:   Three different embalming methods

1. One of these methods involves removing the brain tissue from the nostrils. To hid scars, beeswax was used. "Natron" which is a mixture of sodium sulfate, sodium carbonate, potassium and sodium nitrate, was used to dehydrate the bodies.

2. The second method involved injecting cedar oil into the anus, then treating the body with natron, and finally draining the oil.

3. Third was the easiest, which was just cleansing the body, drying it, and wrapping it with linen.

Further Advances:

1. Advances were made in the 17th century by Gabriel Clauderus. He used a method using "balsamic spirit."

2. In the 18th century, William Hunter used a embalming method that used a mixture of turpentine and camphor.

3. Popularity in the United States increased in the 19th century. During this time, heavy metals like arsenic, antimony,lead, mercury, and copper were used for body preservation.

Formaldehyde Emerges:

1. Starting in the early 1900s and continuing today in the US, formaldehyde is the common preservative in embalming fluids.

2. Formaldehyde is popular due to its low cost, availability, simplicity of use, and cell preservation ability.

Chemistry of formaldehyde in embalming: (2 reactions)

1. First, methylene glycol is produced.

2. Second, formaldehyde reacts with oxygen to form formic acid. However, precautions are taken to prevent an abundant amount of formic acid to be produced.

3. Due to lactic and carbonic acid formation after death, a neutral alkaline embalming fluid is used to neutralize the pH of the blood.

4. Boric acid, borax, dibasic sodium phosphate, and others are combined with formaldehyde and used to make sure the pH of the embalming fluid is appropriate.

5. Formaldehyde preserves tissue by forming cross-links with protein ends.

Video of Embalming Process!

Replacing Formaldehyde:

1. Glutaraldehyde was used as a substitute for formaldehyde, starting in 1955.

2. With Glutaraldehyde the reaction occurs at a much lower pH.

3. Also using this newer method, the protein-aldehyde system is more stable. Using glutaraldehyde also keeps the tissue as its almost original texture and look.

$. However, in the United States formaldehyde is still preferred mainly due to its lower cost.


Comment Stream