Funeral Industry News

NFDA Receives Grant from the Funeral Service Foundation to Study Formaldehyde-free Embalming Chemicals

November 10, 2011

NFDA Receives Grant from the Funeral Service Foundation to Study Formaldehyde-free Embalming Chemicals

Brookfield, Wis. — The Funeral Service Foundation (FSF) has awarded a $40,000 grant to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) that will fund a study to examine the performance of formaldehyde-free embalming chemicals.

The “Formaldehyde-free Embalming Project” will not compare the performance of each product being tested. Rather, each product will be used in up to 10 embalmings and evaluated in an objective manner based on the performance of that product against specified embalming standards.

Initially, project embalmings will be conducted by three mortuary schools: the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, under the supervision of David Hicks; the Pittsburgh School of Mortuary Science, under the supervision of Gene Ogrodnik; and Southern Illinois University Carbondale, School of Allied Health, under the supervision of Thomas Shaw. As new products become market-ready, additional mortuary schools may have the opportunity to participate.

All testing will be “blind,” without revealing the name of the product or other identifying characteristics to the embalmers. A standardized protocol and report form will be used for each embalming in order to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, uniform testing of each product.

The embalming chemicals will be supplied by the product manufacturer at cost. Each product that is included in the study will be tested and analyzed for formaldehyde concentration prior to its use.

NFDA anticipates testing will be completed by August 1, 2013, with announcement of the project’s results during the 2013 NFDA International Convention & Expo. The results of the study will be published in a leading scientific or occupational health journal during the first quarter of 2014.


In the last five years, leading domestic and international organizations and government agencies have evaluated the health risks from exposure to formaldehyde. In 2009, the National Cancer Institute found that funeral directors who embalm for more than 25 years and are exposed to high concentrations of formaldehyde are at risk for developing myeloid leukemia. In the last year, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of Health and Human Services have each evaluated formaldehyde and its risks. In June 2011, the NTP, for the first time, labeled formaldehyde as a known carcinogen in the 12th edition of its report on carcinogens.

NFDA’s goal is to educate its members and the funeral service community about best work practices and provide information, tools and resources to enable funeral directors to create safe and healthy working conditions. As new studies and new products become available, the association enhances its efforts to educate funeral service professionals.

Since the 1990’s, NFDA has worked to educate the funeral service community about the benefits of environmentally-friendly embalming products. Today, a larger proportion of consumers are seeking information about alternatives to traditional embalming practices. Although NFDA has developed a Green Funeral Practices Certificate program, provided training on operating a green funeral home, issued the “Formaldehyde Best Management Practices” document and released the groundbreaking ventilation study, to date, the association has not provided funeral directors with any information or guidance about the use of formaldehyde-free embalming products. This study will fill that gap.

About FSF:

It is the mission of the Funeral Service Foundation to raise awareness of the importance of funeral service through the development and application of new knowledge that results in more meaningful services for families, friends and their loved ones. For more information,

About NFDA:

NFDA is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association, serving 18,500 individual members who represent nearly 10,000 funeral homes in the United States and 43 countries around the world. NFDA is the trusted leader, beacon for ethics and the strongest advocate for the profession. NFDA is the association of choice because it offers funeral professionals comprehensive educational resources, tools to manage successful businesses, guidance to become pillars in their communities and the expertise to foster future generations of funeral professionals. NFDA is headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., and has an office in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit