States to consider whether it is legal to dissolve bodies

The future of disposal. Maybe.

There isn’t anything new about using lye to dissolve bodies.  It has been used used to dispose of medical waste, amputated body parts, animals carcasses and human cadavers used for research.

But some believe that the use of lye is the “next big thing” in the funeral industry — the new alternative to burying and cremation.

The process is called alkaline hydrolysis (“AH”) or resomation and it uses lye, 300-degree heat and pressure to dissolve entire bodies into liquid and ash.  The resulting coffee-colored syrupy liquid can be washed down the drain.  The dry bone ash can be given to family members, much like cremains.

A body is placed in the vessel and sealed. Then, the vessel is tilted upright and the process begins.

Lots of folks are up in arms about putting remains down the drain.  But there are benefits.  Unlike cremation, AH uses less energy and produces almost no carbon emissions.  And it is cheaper.

As a consequence, more states are considering it as a viable option.  According to the Associated Press,

Changes taking effect this year will allow alkaline hydrolysis in Kansas, Maryland and Colorado, where the governor signed a bill into law April 6. It was already legal in Florida, Maine, Minnesota and Oregon. New York and California also are considering allowing it.

Though legal in several states, its use is not common.

In Ohio, the only U.S. funeral facility to use the procedure, has ended up in a legal battle with state regulators.

Ohio’s Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors doesn’t consider the process to be legal under state law, a decision that blocked the facility, Edwards Funeral Service in Columbus, from using it.

The facility and its funeral director, Jeff Edwards, have responded with a lawsuit. Meanwhile, the Ohio Funeral Directors Association decided it was time to pursue legislative changes to legalize alkaline hydrolysis in Ohio.

One of the main issues to be determined is whether it is safe for water treatment facilities to process the disposed liquid, and whether the liquid is sterile.

Bonus video:

Last year, resomation won an innovation award in the U.K. from The Observer. Here’s a video–

Photos courtesy of Bio-Response Solutions

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~ by siouxsielaw on August 14, 2011.

10 Responses to “States to consider whether it is legal to dissolve bodies”

  1. hmmmm…. i do object to it going down the drain and then the water being recycled… it seems also a bit disrespectful to the dead… but having said that.. I’m all for cheaper funerals… it will also solve the issue of grave spaces.

  2. I don’t see how it would violate Ohio state laws. but then again, each state has some pretty interesting and downright inventive laws regarding things you can and can’t do with the dead.

    I personally think this could be a great solution to a number of crises–obviously, the energy efficiency is a huge pro. But the amount of “body” returned to family not only saves THEM space (in the linen closet, on the mantle, etc etc) but the world as well. As much as I love cemeteries, imagine what we could do with that land if we didn’t need space to bury our dead? Though I’m not sure what effect disposing of the liquid afterwards might have to water supplies, etc.

    Definitely an interesting subject!

    • It seems like a great solution to the waste and emissions that occur with cremations. My hunch is that funeral directors in Ohio are up in arms because most places don’t have the machines to do this, so they don’t want it done. But dunno. I like your take on smaller urns! I picture having a collection of miniature urns on my mantel. Awww. I try not to think about the effect on water supply though. Eww.

  3. I only thought hitmen used lye.

  4. i do find it all rather goulish… and in some religions and cultures a dead body is meant to be treated with a lot of respect… not liquidised and poured down the drain… the more i think about it.. the more i find it to be rather insulting..

    out of all the things that are going on that are ruining the environment they want to target funerals…

    what i suggest is using caskets that will be bio degradable ones…

  5. “One of the main issues to be determined is whether it is safe for water treatment facilities to process the disposed liquid…” Water treatment plants safely process disease-filled human waste plus all the bleach, detergents, ammonia, and other toxic chemicals poured down drains. Could the liquified remains really be any worse?

    I don’t think funerals are being targeted by anyone. I think it’s the funeral industry taking advantage of the increasing market for eco-friendly everything. Biodegradable caskets have been readily available for a while; AH is just another “green” option to be marketed.

    • True about water treatment plants. I can’t imagine it would be any worse that everything else they have to filter out/sanitize. Though it makes me think twice about drinking my iced coffee in front of me.

      And agreed funerals aren’t being targeted. It’s just another option that will likely be available, and maybe one day even popular.

  6. As long as it doesn’t harm the planet or its inhabitants, I’m in! Pour me down the drain, I don’t care! I’ll be dead. 🙂 As long as there are some bits of remains left for the families who want them (yes, I do want to keep at least part of my husband on my bedside table in an urn as magnificent as he is [if he dies first!]).

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