Wed | Aug 22, 2018

Gleaner Editors' Forum | Embalmers distance industry from leaking fluids to gangsters

Published:Monday | July 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson/Staff Reporter
Alvin Davis (left) of Young's Funeral Home looks on as Gordon Chuck (Sam Isaacs and Son Funeral Home) makes a point during a Gleaner Editors' forum at the offices of the Gleaner, North Street in Kingston.
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As the police continue their probe into reports that gangsters are using embalming fluid to get high, members of the newly formed Jamaica Association of Certified Embalmers and Funeral Home Directors last week distanced themselves from any involvement in supplying the substance to thugs.

The funeral home directors, some of whom were at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday, said the main chemical in embalming fluid, formaldehyde, is openly accessible to Jamaicans at most chemical stores and does not necessarily come from funeral homes.

"There is great ease with which one can purchase embalming fluid. They (users) don't have to go to a funeral director. They can go to any chemical outlet, and you have a number of them in Spanish Town where you can go and buy a 55-gallon drum of formaldehyde," explained Telbert Roberts, public relations officer for the embalmers' association.

"You don't need a licence to buy the chemical, yet you need a prescription to get antibiotics from the pharmacy," argued Roberts as he sought to distance legitimate funeral homes from the practice, and called on the Government for greater regulation of Jamaica's funeral home industry.

According to Gordon Chuck, director at the Sam Isaacs and Son Funeral Home, without greater regulation, chemical companies will not be able to decipher who to sell the hazardous chemical.

"The problem is that third-party entities can't differentiate a certified funeral home from a 'suitcase' funeral home. We don't have a list of certified funeral homes," Chuck interjected, bemoaning a growing plague of more than 150 unregistered funeral home directors with less-than-pure motives.

There is no list to say, well, 'I will do business with you because you are certified and not with you because you are not.' So the taxi driver can say he wants to start a funeral home tomorrow and go and purchase chemicals," he continued, to nods of approval from attendees.

Late last month, Detective Inspector Sheldon Coulson of the Police Narcotics Division told a press conference at the Ministry of National Security that police were yet to confirm reports that gunmen from St James have been spraying the embalming fluid on their marijuana and tobacco cigarettes before smoking them.

It is said that the fluid has a negative impact on them, influencing the gangsters to carry out more ruthless crimes.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com