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P2 for funeral homes/mortuaries/the funeral industry
Question submitted on 1/26/06

Have any of you ever worked on tech assistance for funeral homes/mortuaries? I found one 1995 study on Formaldehyde Use Reduction, do you know of any other good ones out there?


There was a discussion on P2Tech about four years ago about environmental issues associated with crematoria, which are slightly different than funeral homes, but certainly related. At the time, I did a search for one of our staff people on the issue too. Here's what I found:

A search of the P2Tech archives ( turned up the following (in response to a message originally posted by John Marlin):

· Subject: Re: crematoria
· From: "Robert B. Pojasek"
· Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 15:42:47 -0800 · List-Name: P2Tech

The problem that I understand is that the fillings in the deceased teeth are heated causing some mercury to be volatilized. Crematoria typically do not have air pollution control devices. I understand that in California the morticians have to pull the teeth prior to the baking. This is pollution prevention at work. I do not know what other types of emissions are released from the naked point source (often in close proximity to a neighborhood). Sort of conjures up scenes from ghostbusters!

· Subject: RE: crematoria
· From: John Calcagni
· Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 11:16:06 -0500
· List-Name: P2Tech

I would expect some of the same issues associated with medical waste incineration. EPA has published air standards for medical waste incineration. The background documents for this standard are at EPA also included crematoria in their Mercury point source inventory in their report to Congress. There may be some unique mercury related issues. Also we have a number of articles related to medical waste at our Website Go to search databases and then to RLIBY. We can send you any articles you find relevant.

· Subject: RE: crematoria and medical waste
· From: John Calcagni
· Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 16:34:25 -0500
· List-Name: P2Tech

Follow up to my previous message: I spoke to Rick Copeland at EPA who headed up the effort on the medical waste incineration standards for air, regarding medical waste incinerators(MWI) and he indicated that the issues are not transferrable to crematoria. In fact, crematoria are specifically exempt from the MWI standards. MWI burn a lot of plastics and contaminated supplies which contribute substantial chlorine to the formation of HCl and possibly dioxins and heavy metals. These constituents pose the greater air risk. Tissue matter which is 96% water does not pose these kinds of problems. The EPA air program is looking into crematoria as part of other waste disposal such as combustion of chicken carcasses. He expects mercury from fillings being a problem unique to crematoria since it volatilizes at low combustion temperatures and is not easily removed. Ironically the chlorine levels in MWI result in the formation of HgCl2 which can be removed from the air more easily but ends up in the water.

· Subject: Re: crematoria
· From: "Kirsten Sinclair Rosselot"
· Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 21:17:02 -0800
· List-Name: P2Tech

According to the L&E document for dioxins and furans ("Locating and Estimating Air Emissions from Sources of Dioxins and Furans (Draft)," U.S. EPA, May 1996), crematories are a source of dioxin and furan emissions.

Incomplete combustion, don't you know.... I've wondered if maybe it wasn't the materials burned with the bodies (clothing, containers, etc.) that caused the dioxin and furan emissions, or perhaps things like artificial hips made of plastic. Emissions could depend on factors such as body composition, too, I suspect.

The quantities of dioxins and furans emitted are tiny -- on the order of ten to the minus 13 kilograms per pound of body. However, even tiny amounts of these compounds can be cause for concern.

· Subject: Crematoria
· From: Jeff Cantin
· Date: Wed, 06 Jan 1999 13:51:10 -0500
· List-Name: P2Tech

I also did some searching on the web and found the following sites:

Environmental Effects Main Crematorium Concern

Dioxinlike Components in Incinerator Fly Ash: A Comparison between Chemical Analysis Data and Results from a Cell Culture Bioassay (article abstract)

Inventory of Sources of Dioxin in the United States (see section 3.4 beginning on page 3-37 for information on crematoria. A look at the References section at the end may also yield relevant journal articles)

Emission Tests Provide Positive Result for Cremation Industry

EPA Publishes New Mercury Data for Crematories

Making Funeral Pyres Eco-Friendly (India)

Florida DEP Division of Air Resource Management: Human Crematories

There are also green products available for the industry:

Yes, this is what it sounds like.

Environment Protection Coffin
An environment protection coffin is constructed to include a coffin body made by folding up a patterned sheet material into shape, which patterned sheet material is formed of an outer shell, an inner shell, and at least one intermediate lining shell sandwiched in between the outer shell and the inner shell.

ECOCEMETERY OFFERS NATURAL BURIAL IN WOODLAND PRESERVE Conventional burial in the United States bears a resemblance to toxic waste disposal. The Environmental Protection Agency has raised concerns about discharge of embalming fluids from funeral homes into septic and sewage systems. Caskets and vaults may contaminate soil and groundwater by leaching varnishes, preservatives, sealants and metals. Most cemeteries are kept verdant by regular applications of herbicides and pesticides and are "beautified" with turf and invasive exotic species. But in Westminster, South Carolina, Billy and Kimberly Campbell have founded Memorial Ecosystems, the first contemporary cemetery in the nation dedicated to ecosystem preservation while providing a lower-cost burial alternative. At the company's pilot "ecocemetery," unembalmed bodies are buried in biodegradable cardboard cremation boxes or simple pine coffins in a native woodland. Plots are sited close to the trail to avoid visitors' trampling the woodland vegetation. Where topsoil must be removed, it is replaced after burial. Grave markers are simple inscriptions on stones mostly found on the property. The Campbells will allow an average of 30 graves per acre, compared to 1,000 or more per acre in some contemporary cemeteries. While burial requirements differ from state to state, they are less constricting than one might expect. In South Carolina, for example, not even a box is legally required. More: ( . Landscape Architecture, Oct 2002, p 74, by J. William Thompson. [Source:]

I also found a list of funeral related association web sites at Some of these groups may have environmental information posted there.

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