Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Body preservation and arsenic. It was an amazing preservative but led to a major problem

Today in the funeral industry we have embalming fluid. It is mainly a formaldehyde mixture with coloring agents to give a dead body the look of life.

The earliest types of embalming fluids used arsenic as its preservation agent. It worked wonderfully. In fact it worked much better than the agents used today.

Today, bodies do not last long in their coffins, and the use of embalming today is to make the dead look good for a few days after death and also for controlling decease. In a dead body it compounds 100 fold every day.

In the 19th century the public funeral for the average man or woman started to become the norm. Before that time it was more reserved for the famous or the elite.

By the time of the American Civil War embalming became much more wide spread as the dead were being shipped home from the battlefield.
Lincoln pushed for the embalming and even when his son Willie died he had his son embalmed.
The agent they used was arsenic..It worked wonderfully and lasted. Lincoln several times went to his son's tomb. Which was borrowed at the time and would open the coffin to gaze on the body of Willie. He did that several times. It showed the lasting factors of arsenic.
When Lincoln himself was assassinated, he was embalmed and went on public display for nearly a month!! Arsenic was used. When Lincoln was exhumed in 1901, he was perfectly preserved. This was a fantastic way to preserve bodies. But we do not use it anymore for 2 reasons.

1. It is a very dangerous chemical, and it can easily kill all those who work with it.

2. It made the perfect crime so easy to commit. Kill them with arsenic and have them embalmed...No one would ever be the wiser.

That is why today we use formaldehyde.....

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