A North Jersey mortician suffering from leukemia is suing his employer and numerous manufacturers of chemicals used in embalming.
The lawsuit, filed in September in Superior Court in Hackensack, comes two years after Secaucus resident William Moore, 38, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia and one year after federal toxicologists placed formaldehyde on a list of carcinogenic chemicals. At that time, they said mortuary workers were at risk for developing different cancers, the Bergen Record reported.
In the lawsuit, Moore contends manufacturers of the embalming fluid knew or should have known their products raised the cancer risk for people with higher levels of formaldehyde exposure, according to the Bergen Record.
The suit alleges Moore’s employer failed to provide him with "accommodations" such as improving the ventilation or transferring him to the company's newer Ocean County facility, the Bergen Record reported.
Moore's attorney, Robert A. Tandy of Montvale, told the Bergen Record his client "wasn't asking to refrain from doing any duty associated with a funeral director, but was asking for an accommodation to help him perform the functions of his job."
Formaldehyde is a sharp smelling and colorless chemical used in the embalming process for preserving and stabilizing effects. Embalming is the process that temporarily preserves a deceased body for viewing. It is not intended to preserve the body for an indefinite period.
Embalming is required in the state of New Jersey when there are no plans to refrigerate a body that will not be buried or cremated within 48 hours of death, according to the New Jersey Funeral Directors Association.
Craig Caldwell, a licensed funeral director and vice president of business development for Dodge Co., said he is “not aware of any similar circumstances” involving the illness of an embalmer; adding his company markets formaldehyde-free embalming fluids.
But “they are not very popular,” Caldwell told the Bergen Record in an interview. Formaldehyde is an imperative element because it is "most effective in attacking the proteins in the body which cause decomposition."
Caldwell’s company is the largest manufacturer of embalming fluid named in the suit.
Formaldehyde can also be found in the home in such items as pressed-wood products, cigarette smoke, and fuel-burning appliances, according to the National Cancer Institute.