You know you’ve been sniffing a little too much embalming fluid when you argue that natural burials are bad for the planet. And yet, that’s just what a funeral director from New Zealand did while participating in a debate on the topic during a town council meeting earlier last month.
Francis Day, of Marsden House Funeral Services, told the Nelson City Council that putrefaction of a body that was not embalmed would lead to higher toxicity levels in the surrounding soil to levels “which in many places would breach World Health Organization standards.” He continued that diseases and bacteria do not die when a person die but go right on living and could put “future communities at risk”.
Like I said, a little too much sniffing. Such talk was immediately shot down by Mark Blackham, founder of the NZ Natural Burials organization.
“The assertion that unembalmed bodies leave viruses in the soil is scientific ignorance at the least, and deliberate fear-mongering at worst,” he said. “Infectious disease-causing viruses and pathogens pass between living people and their excrement. These pathogens die with the host body within 24 hours.
“There are already plenty of microorganisms naturally present in soil which can cause illness – such as Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium botulinum and Bacillus cereus. They do not come from dead humans under the soil. They are permanent and essential features of the ecosystem. Many breed on the surface level excrement of live animals, like humans. Compounding their display of scientific illiteracy, the Embalmers suggest that embalming fluid kills human viruses but leaves every other micro-organism, especially those in the soil, alive.”
“No one, not even the makers of embalming fluid, realised this hazardous chemical cocktail had such incredible powers of discernment between living organisms.”
Funny enough, the funeral director claims to be all for natural burial — but just watching out for the “well being” of the community. Uh huh. Sounds like someone is a little upset that his customers won’t be forking over more than $7,500 per funeral anymore. And I would love to hear him explain how eco-friendly conventional burial is.