Facts about Cremation
Cremation accelerates the natural decomposition process, accomplishing in a matter of hours what would otherwise take months or years to occur. There are two types of cremation although one process is relatively new and not readily available. Both methods reduce the body to its basic elements of bone fragments through the use of intense heat. One (Flame Cremation) uses fire while the other (Flameless Cremation) uses water and an alkali solution.
Returned to the family in a temporary urn (or a more personal urn selected by the family), ashes can be kept, buried, or scattered. Many families choose to place a loved one's cremated remains in a more permanent urn; they can choose from a wide selection of simple urns up to hand-crafted pieces of cremation art.
Before the Cremation
Upon death, the body is received by a licensed funeral professional who establishes a chain-of-custody. This is critical in assuring their next of kin that the cremated body of the deceased is accurately identified following the cremation process. A written authorization to cremate is drafted, and signed by the family member with legal authority. Additional paperwork identifies the personal effects of the deceased, the casket or cremation container selected, and how the cremated remains are to be handled. In addition, the legal death certificate will be prepared, signed by a doctor or medical examiner, and filed with the county.
The body is then prepared for cremation. Personal effects and pacemakers are removed, and the body is placed in an alternative cremation container. A metal identification tag is added, to ensure proper identification throughout the cremation process. It will be cremated with the body to allow for proper identification of the cremated remains. At this point, the body is transported to the crematory.
Flame or Traditional Cremation
The process of flame cremation involves the use of very specialized equipment called a retort. Fuelled by either natural gas or propane, a retort is intended to cremate only one body at a time. When it is in use, the interior will reach temperatures of 1,500 to 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once a body arrives at the crematory, the identity of the deceased is again verified by all professionals involved, and placed with all due care into the retort.
The crematory operator then initiates the incineration cycle. It usually takes about two hours for a body to be completely reduced to just the bone fragments; this is dependent on the size of the physical remains as well as the age of the cremation unit being used in the cremation.
After incineration, a cool-down period is necessary to ensure the bone fragments can be appropriately handled. Once cooled, the cremated remains are removed by being thoroughly swept from the retort. All metal debris (such as a surgical pin or titanium joint) is removed manually from the cremated remains.
The remains are put into a special processor that pulverizes and reduces the bone fragments to a finer consistency. These are then placed inside a clear plastic bag within a temporary plastic or cardboard cremation container. Finally, arrangements are made for their transfer and safekeeping consistent with original paperwork signed by the next of kin.
The latest innovation in cremation is a process of alkaline hydrolysis, also referred to as resomation, green cremation, or bio-cremation. The process itself dates back to the late 1800s but its use only became well known when the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota created a bio-cremation system for final disposition of its whole-body donors in 2006.
"The biocremation method, known as alkaline hydrolysis, is similar to many physiological processes that occur naturally in the body. Biocremation converts tissue and cells of the human body into a watery solution of micromolecules, leaving the bone structure of mineral compounds, such as calcium and phosphates. Since biocremation is not a combustion process, it is environmentally friendly and does not produce toxic gases or air pollutants. The biocremated remains are reduced to a powder consistency, placed in a temporary container and may be returned to the family or interred..."
Since that time, a handful of states and one province have legalized the process for human cremation. (Bio-cremation for animals is actually more readily available across North America.) Alkaline hydrolysis uses alkali in water at temperatures up to 180°C. No acid is used during this gentle process; the only chemical mixed with the water is potassium hydroxide (KOH). The process takes 3-4 hours, produces ash similar to that of flame cremation, uses significantly less energy, and produces minimal carbon emissions.
What is Direct Cremation?
Direct cremation is a personal choice, often made because of a personal preference or financial restraints. Typically, the body is not embalmed or prepared for viewings or visitations; there are no visitations or funeral ceremonies at the time of death; there is no need for a casket since a specialized cremation container is all that is required; and a memorial service can be held at any time at any location determined by the family. A funeral professional's direct cremation fee will include disbursements (transportation of remains, legal documents, obituary, etc.).
Essentially, direct cremation is the starting point; you and your family can choose from the various additional services and merchandise available from your closest provider. The costs vary from region to region and from provider to provider. It's your choice: The Funeral You Want — No More, No Less.
Following the cremation, family members can choose from a number of options for final disposition: inter in cemetery plot or place in columbarium, scatter, or keep urn in another location.
A memorial service of any kind can be coordinated at any time, in any location following the cremation. Some type of ceremony is recommended because it provides family and friends with the opportunity to say a final goodbye, share memories, and support one another. The diversity of a memorial service is only limited by the imagination of family members arranging the event.
For many, these services will often be followed by some sort of reception or gathering designed to provide support and thanks for coming. The location of these receptions can range from the family home, reception facilities, restaurants or favorite places of the deceased.
is a practical alternative, requires no land use, and ashes can be interred, scattered or kept in a keepsake urn.
Cremation rates have increased steadily in both the U.S. and Canada since 1970 when the rates were 3.56% and 5.89% respectively. Although the rates in 2013 varied from state to state and province to province, according to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), the national averages were 45.1% in the U.S. and 64.9% in Canada. The upward trend is expected to continue; the 2018 projected cremation rates are 50.6% in the U.S. and 70.5% in Canada.
According to the funeral-industry sponsored Wirthlin Report from 2006, the five primary reasons why cremation is chosen are:
- Saves Money (30%)
- Saves Land (13%)
- Simpler (8%)
- Body Not in Earth (6%)
- Personal Preference (6%)
The Cremation Association of North America outlines nine factors influencing the increased demand for cremations:
- People are dying older and choosing cremation for themselves
- Migration to retirement locations is increasing
- Cremation has become acceptable
- Level of education is rising
- Ties to tradition are becoming weaker
- Regional differences are diminishing
- Religious restrictions are diminishing
- Environmental considerations are becoming more important
- Greater flexibility in memorialization services