Did you know that 5.3 million gallons of embalming fluid are used in the United States every year? What does that have to do with anything? Well, many people want to know about the flammability of different substances, gases, chemicals, metals, etc. The list goes on and on, as this site has shown. And one item on that list generates a question that is more common than you might think - is embalming fluid flammable?
Yes, it is flammable due to its primary ingredients - formaldehyde and methanol. Read on to learn more about the flammability of this liquid and many other interesting facts!
What Is Embalming Fluid?
This liquid is usually a blend of formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, methanol, other solvents, and water. The specific portions of each ingredient can vary since there is no established formula, but typically formaldehyde makes up from 5% to 37%, and methanol makes up from 9% to 56% of the mixture. And you may or may not know that both of these liquids are flammable substances, which is a big reason why embalming fluid is also flammable.
What Is Embalming Fluid Used For?
Its primary use is to temporarily prevent the decomposition of a body after death by injecting it into the arterial system of the corpse. In addition, other chemicals and additives are used to customize the liquid depending on the specific needs of the embalming and the embalmer’s objectives.
What Does Embalming Fluid Smell Like?
It takes on the smell of formaldehyde, one of its primary ingredients, which has a sharp acrid chemical smell that is quite unpleasant and harmful with prolonged exposure. The liquid’s other primary ingredient, methanol, has a faint odor similar to alcohol, so it ends up being overwhelmed by the smell of the formaldehyde.
If you can, think back to those junior high or high school days when you dissected a frog or something else - that smell mainly was formaldehyde.
Does Embalming Fluid Burn?
Yes, it can burn, given the flammability of its primary ingredients, although that could only occur prior to injection into a dead body.
Dangers of Embalming Fluid
There are many dangers associated with embalming fluid due to the various chemicals and solvents that make up the mixture. In addition to the flammability of some of the ingredients, they may also be toxic, corrosive, and emit dangerous vapors, among other things.
What If You Drink Embalming Fluid?
Even drinking as little as one ounce of formalin (solution comprised of approximately ⅓ formaldehyde) could kill a human. And if you were lucky enough not to die immediately or fall into a coma, even ingesting slight amounts of concentrated formaldehyde may cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, vertigo, convulsions, and a variety of other adverse effects. So, you might be able to survive embalming fluid, but just say no!
Therefore, don’t do what Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) did in the 2011 film Game Of Shadows when he drank embalming fluid. Remember, this is a work of fiction - his outcome would not be the same as yours!
What Happens If Embalming Fluid Gets On Your Skin?
Human skin is quite sensitive, so even exposure to a small concentration of formaldehyde can cause skin irritation and possibly an allergic reaction, which could include edema. In addition, the formaldehyde exposure might release vapors that could cause a burning sensation and watery eyes.
Embalming Fluid Smoking
A dangerous emerging trend is people dipping their tobacco or marijuana cigarettes in embalming fluid to enhance the feeling they get from smoking the cigarette alone. Of course, both of those cigarettes pose their own health risks. But this practice supercharges additional risks. In addition to causing behavioral changes that could put the person in situational danger, ongoing health risks include cancer, destruction of body tissue, lung damage, seizures, brain damage, immediate coma, or death.
Is Embalming Fluid Toxic To The Environment?
Yes, most of the ingredients that make up this liquid are harmful and toxic to people and the environment. And although at its initial use, it serves a valuable purpose, in the future, all of those chemicals will leach into the ground and could impact groundwater and surrounding foliage. As environmental awareness has increased over the years, people are moving toward green burials, which eliminate chemicals from the process and use other solutions, such as mineral oils, for preservation.
How Flammable Is A Dead Body?
A corpse is not flammable. Even though there is a large amount of embalming fluid in the body, a large percentage of the human body is water, which is not flammable. Now you may be thinking, well then, how does cremation work? The cremation process works by subjecting the body to such extreme heat, up to 1,800°F, that it vaporizes any remaining liquids and turns everything into dust.
Embalming fluid is essential in societies that want to preserve their dead for viewings, funerals, and burial. It gives the family peace of mind to remember their loved ones as close as possible to how they were when they were living.
However, as pointed out in this article, it is also a mixture that needs to be handled with care and not used in a dangerous manner. But with your new knowledge, you too can now answer the question - is embalming fluid flammable?