Cemeteries are known to be associated with soil and groundwater pollution from contaminants in coffin materials. However, possible contamination from embalming fluids such as formaldehyde has not been investigated. Formaldehyde is a recognised carcinogen, which is primarily toxic after inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. Although it is maintained that formaldehyde breaks down into innocuous compounds, this has not been established at sites such as cemeteries where there is a continuous addition of formaldehyde-preserved bodies, sometimes on a daily basis. It is also not confirmed whether different soil types and environmental conditions affect the leaching of formaldehyde into groundwater resources. This study comprises a laboratory study of the leaching potential of formaldehyde through different soils and environmental conditions. Twenty-seven containers with taps were filled with either sandy, silty or clayey soils. Samples of burial materials and a cloth saturated with formalin were buried within each column. These were exposed to conditions simulating that of the environment, i.e. (1) different temperatures, (2) heavy or prolonged rainfall and (3) using either acidic or slightly acid water. Leachate samples were collected every 2 weeks for a period of 24 weeks and analysed for formaldehyde using acid titration. The results showed that most formaldehyde percolated through the soil between week 6 and week 14 of interment, with a greater amount being leached from sand. Neither temperature nor pH affected the amount of formaldehyde leached; however, conditions simulating heavy rainfall facilitated leaching. Although a total of only 3% of the initial amount of formaldehyde mobilised, concentrations of up to 15 mg/L formaldehyde were recorded on two occasions, exceeding the tolerable concentration recommended by the World Health Organisation.