Bill Nye the Science Guy has been around for awhile, and is currently on the Discovery Networks (Planet Green). I have never been a fan of his politically correct approach to science, but figure that anything that can get kids interested in the field is probably reason enough to ignore his bias.
Then I saw this video, from his "Stuff Happens" series. [Editor's note: Guess what? This video has been removed, although the gist of its nonsense is still referenced in many blogs. If you can find the video somewhere, please let me know.]
The first mistake is a silly rant about the formaldehyde in insulation. He claims that it can be a problem when the insulation is discarded, and then the formaldehyde can "wreak havoc" on the environment. Any scientist worth his salt should know that formaldehyde does not accumulate in the environment, because it is broken down within a few hours by sunlight and bacteria.
But, he completely loses it around 4:10 into the video when he says:
"Twenty years ago, it took twice as much formaldehyde to embalm a dead body than it does today. Why is that? Because today, we already have twice as much formaldehyde in our bodies."
Consider how stupid this statement is, and in how many ways...
First of all, formaldehyde does not build up in our bodies, but exists at a steady state concentration of 1 to 2 parts-per-million in the blood. It is a normal metabolite of all animals, and this concentration has nothing to do with environmental pollution.
Embalming fluid contains anywhere from 5 to 29 percent formaldehyde. This content is referred to as "index," thus a 25-index fluid would have 25 percent formaldehyde. Please note that 5 percent formaldehyde is 50,000 parts-per-million, and a 25-index solution would be 250,000 parts-per-million. Do you really think that the amount of formaldehyde in the blood is going to affect this? What if the amount in our blood did double? We would still be off by a factor of more than 10,000!
Of course, even if we WERE walking around with these incredibly high and toxic levels in our blood, it wouldn't matter, since the embalming process REMOVES blood before the fluid is injected.
But, let's say that the laws and procedures were changed so that the blood could stay inside. Is Nye suggesting that the mortician first run a formaldehyde assay to determine how much fluid he doesn't have to add?
This is far more than a simple mistake. His quote compounds multiple errors, and on its face is absurd in its suggestion that we are already walking around half-embalmed.
Remember that someone had to write the script, someone had to produce the show, and presumably many people had to watch it being filmed before it was broadcast.
How sad that this nonsense was picked up by multiple blogs, or that anyone listens to a single thing this grifter has to say.