Formaldehyde in tsunami victims’ coffins makes Swedes sick

The formaldehyde used to embalm Swedish victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster last December is posing a health risk to people handling the caskets in Sweden, Swedish media reported on Wednesday.

“The coffins are excreting carcinogenic gases,” Lennart Hammerstedt, a workplace safety officer in the Stockholm suburb of Sollentuna told local paper Mitt i Sollentuna.

The large amounts of formaldehyde used in the embalming process have reportedly emitted cancer-causing fumes that have led to skin irritation and breathing problems for people handling the coffins in Sweden.

Following the discovery of the problem, Sollentuna has called for all city employees handling the coffins to wear face masks, Swedish news agency TT reported.

Five hundred and forty-four Swedes were killed or remain missing in the December 26 tsunami. As many as 20,000 Swedes were vacationing in the area around the Indian Ocean, mainly in Khao Lak in Thailand, at the time, and the number of the Scandinavian country’s nationals missing was initially feared to be as high as 3,500.

Sweden with its nine million inhabitants remains one of the countries outside of Asia with the highest per capita death toll in the catastrophe, which claimed an estimated 217,000 lives.