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embalming and environment




P2techies: 

please send a copy of any responses directly to e-mail address below.

>Dear Sir/Madam,
>
>We are asked by the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning and
>Environment to investigate the possible environmental impacts of the use
>of the embalming product Arthyl24. This product is produced by Hygecobel
>in France. It is used in France, Belgium and probably also other
>countries to conserve bodies for a short period (approximately 10 days)
>after death. This practice is called thanatopraxy. The main reason for
>this short conservation is to inhibit decomposition of the body during
>the period that the body lies in state and is visited by relatives and
>friends.
>At this moment, conservation (even short conservation) of dead bodies in
>The Netherlands is forbidden by law except in special cases such as when
>a body has to be transported abroad. However, many undertakers wood like
>to have this law changed and a group of them has requested the
>government to allow short conservation by law in the near future. In
>considering a possible change of the law, the government also wants to
>know the environmental impacts of short conservation.
>For this reason, we were asked to study these impacts. As part of this
>study, I have been looking at Internet to gain more information about
>embalming and its environmental aspects and I found your adress
>(http://pprc.pnl.gov/pprc/rpd/statefnd/turi/formalde.html). I would be
>very grateful if you can help me with a few questions.
>
>First some information: 
>Arthyl24 consists of a formaline solution (25% vol formaldehyde in
>water), salts (mainly sodium benzoate, 0.34 mol l-1), a dye: eosine (ca
>260 mg l-1) and a few other compounds in low concentration. To conserve
>a body for a short period, this solution is diluted by a factor of 50
>and the about 5 l of the diluted solution is pumped into the body,
>mainly to replace the blood. After doing this, a body contains
>approximately 24.6 g formaldehyde, 5 g sodium benzoate and 26 mg eosine.
>
>Then my questions:
>1) What happens with the formaldehyde (note: a dilute solution
>containing 0.5% vol formaldehyde is used) after inhection in the body?
>Does it react with compounds such as proteins, fats etc. and if so, how
>quick are these reactions and what are the reaction products? Are any
>hazardous compounds formed in these reactions?
>2) Does (a part of the) formaldehyde evaporate out of  the body and if
>so, what concentration in air can be expected then?
>3) What happens with the formaldehyde, sodium benzoate and eosine after
>the body has been buried? I expect that after the funeral first the
>coffin has to decay before the compounds are released into the soil and,
>possibly, groundwater. Once in the soil, the compounds might be either
>degraded by bacteria or transported in the soil, groundwater and finally
>surface waters.
>
>Do you have any information about these problems? We are also interested
>in scientific publications or references about this subject,
>particularly regarding our questions.
>We would be very grateful if you can help us.
>
>Sincerely Yours,
>
>Dr. M.G. Mennen
>National Institute for Public Health and Environment
>Inspection Research and Environmental Incident Services
>P.O. Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands
>tel. 31.30.2742998
>fax: 31.30.2290919
>E-mail: Marcel.Mennen@rivm.nl
>