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Healthcare Basics

What is the environmental impact of cremation?

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  • ADiscovery Health answered

    People are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of traditional burials, which use an enormous amount of resources, such as rare woods and metals in the casket and cement for a required bunker to line the grave sites, and release toxins from embalmed bodies. The open space used for cemeteries is also a concern for crowded urban areas and countries, such as Japan and Taiwan, where any open space is at a premium. But what about the environmental impact cremation generates?

    While the process of cremation utilizes natural gas, propane or diesel to generate energy and results in emissions, it's difficult to precisely calculate the carbon footprint of a cremation. Varying quantities of energy and resources are consumed depending on factors like time of day, body size and type of container.

    The latest cremators are computerized and optimized for efficiency and emissions reduction. Potentially toxic substances such as radioactive isotopes used to treat some forms of cancer as well as other materials are removed from bodies before processing. Residual metals from dental fillings or hip replacements are also separated and potentially recycled. In a traditional burial, these items might not be typically removed.

    Crematory operators can work towards making cremation more ecologically sound by batching cremations. This helps avoid expending extra energy by preheating the incinerator at single intervals rather than at multiple times. They can also avoid putting plastic or rubber items in the containers that will release toxic smoke.

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