Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Will Your Final Act be Green?

The desire to be green has expanded to California's funeral industry, which is pushing for a change in state law to allow for an eco-friendlier alternative to cremation and burial: water resolution.

Also known as alkaline hydrolysis, biocremation or resomation, the technology uses heated water, potassium hydroxide and turbulence to dissolve body tissue within three to four hours.

The end results: pure white bones that can be pulverized into a substance similar to ash and a liquid that proponents say is a sterile, environmentally safe solution that can be safely washed down the drain or even used to water plants.

The technology has been in use for more than a decade, mostly by research laboratories that dispose of animal remains. But soon, California residents may have the option at the mortuary as well.

State Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, has introduced a bill that would add the process to the list of legally allowable ways mortuaries can deal with human remains.

Supporters say it will offer environmentally conscious consumers a way to avoid the pitfalls of traditional end-of-life options.

Cremation uses fossil fuels and is regulated by environmental officials because of the air emissions. Burials also pose environmental challenges because embalming fluids are generally made of chemicals, including formaldehyde, that eventually leak into the ground. There's also less and less space for cemeteries, especially in dense urban areas such as the Bay Area.

The technology has already been approved in several other states, and a funeral home in Florida will soon be the first place in the nation to offer it to the public, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Miller said he anticipates no problems getting his proposal through the Legislature.

The Catholic Church's National Bioethics Center has given its blessing to the procedure, and the Department of Anatomy at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota has been using the process - its website refers to it as "chemical cremation" - on cadavers donated for research. In Europe, it's been used at funeral homes for years, said James Olson, a spokesman for the funeral directors group.

The process is fairly simple: A body is placed into a large stainless steel machine with water and potassium hydroxide, an inorganic compound. It is then heated to more than 300 degrees. Turbulence created by the machine helps speed the decomposition process, dissolving flesh and soft tissue.



Mr. Sunshine said...

Gross, and not green at all. Bury an un-embalmed body in a wicker coffin and let nature take its course.

Maureen McHale said...

Yeah, I had the same feeling. My stomach kind of turned thinking about the turbulence ripping apart my flesh and "dissolving flesh and soft tissue"...there goes my breakfast!!

mlasell said...

Unfortunate set of ads for Bertuccis on the right. The spaghetti dinner photo made me gag.

John said...

Why not add carrots, onions, and a couple of potatoes while you're at it?

This is disgusting. But you did succeed in convincing me to become a vegetarian. I agree with Mr. Sunshine that if you truly want to go green, let the worms do it.

John said...

Mmm, mmm, good. Why not just ad a few carrots, onions, and maybe a potato or two? Oh, and the giblets.

This just convinced me to become a vegetarian. And I agree with Mr. Sunshine that if one wants to be green when things go black, let the worms handle it.

ed said...

For the final disposition of my body, I could opt to have my body planted in land filled and reserved for the dead. Other than my bones, my body would become unsterile liquid and leach into aquifers. Over 19 million people in the U.S. are sicken from drinking water, each year. Knowing my dead body could release upon the living disease causing microorganisms: bacterium, virus, and fungus, I consider this option no further. Neither, would I welcome choosing to have fossil fuel used to incinerate my remains. 96% of my body would linger in my survivors’ atmosphere. Cremation would render my body into gaseous emissions composed of numerous pollutants, including highly hazardous mercury vapors and other toxins. Plus, cremating me would consume about 3 million BTU of gas.

The best option is water and alkali. Cremation and burial are not a fit for those living in the 21st century. For more on my views visit www.CycledLife.com.

tulip1810 said...


Oh, I am old fashioned! Sounds like going away in a electric chair! Well I didn't see the ad's for spaghetti, so my stomach is fine! I kind of just like the recent idea of caskets going green and being able to decompose along with your body is a better picture mentally. The idea of speading up the process is like going through McDonald's. Can we get this to go?
Well....we have fun don't we?

ed said...

Decomposing is risky.

According to the World Health Organization, scientific research indicates that as many as 19 million Americans may become ill each year due to the parasites, viruses and bacteria in drinking water. Prions, including Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, can survive in the deceased for years. Bacterium and virus from deceased bodies have led to pandemics which have caused loss of life greater in number than all those who have died in war. The burial risks from microorganisms are solved with CycledBurial.
CycledBurial Public Health Risks
A CycledBurial leaves the entire body pathogen free. This prevents any possible harm to one's family or friend.

Green Burial

Environmentally sensitive consumers are choosing a more natural solution. Green burial excludes the use of toxic embalming fluids, concrete vaults, and non-biodegradable caskets. Although pragmatic, green burials unfortunately do not address the pathogen challenges of a body’s natural decomposition, disease causing microorganisms - bacterium and virus.
CycledBurial and Green Burial
A CycledBurial is the perfect complement to a green burial. A CycledBurial would solve the problems with green burials. Green burials require the movement of lots of dirt to bury a body. As many green burials are designed to create a land conservation, the upheaval of the soil is undesirable. Further, it limits the placement of bodies both in terms of where a grave can be physically dug and as to how many bodies can be buried on a parcel of land. CycledBurial reduces the footprint of the gravesite. It eliminates the problem with wildlife exhuming the deceased. Those who choose embalming could still have a green burial, as a CycledBurial would render the formaldehyde harmless. This would allow for this option to have a wider consumer appeal. A CycledBurial would eliminate any concerns about public health risks. Since, CycledBurial(TM) kills 100% of all bacteria, viruses and prions leading to 100% pathogen-free remains.