Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Aquamation Gaining Support

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A global awareness of a totally new approach to funeral practice was unleashed when it was announced that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had died and was laid to rest behind his pulpit in Cape Town.

The 90-year-old cleric gained renown for denouncing bigotry and racial tyranny as well as giving speeches and writing articles about the need to take action to combat climate change and protecting the environment.

To cap his environmental crusade, he requested that his body be aquamated, described as a greener alternative to cremation.

Few folks knew what that meant.

Aquamation is a cremation method using water that funeral parlors are touting as environmentally friendly.

The process, known more scientifically as “alkaline hydrolysis,” is simply cremation by water rather than fire.

The body of the deceased is immersed for three to four hours in a mixture of water and strong alkali-like potassium hydroxide in a pressurized metal cylinder that is heated to around 150 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

Everything is liquefied but the bones, which are then dried in an oven, reduced to dust and placed in an urn. The water can be processed through normal wastewater-treatment facilities.

This method of body disposal was developed in the early 1990s to discard the carcasses of animals used in experiments. It was used later to dispose of cows during the mad cow disease epidemic that lasted until the turn of the century.

Then U.S. medical schools began using aquamation to dispose of donated human cadavers and the practice slowly made its way into the funeral industry, according to a 2014 research paper.

The process also is used to dispose of animal carcasses in slaughterhouses, where it is considered to be more efficient and hygienic.

With burial space in urban areas worldwide becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, aquamation has obvious attractions.

However, the practice has not been legalized in every country and about half of the U.S. states have yet to authorize it.

Advocates claim a liquid cremation consumes less energy than a conventional one and emits fewer greenhouse gases.

According to UK-based firm Resomation, aquamation uses five times less energy than fire and reduces a funeral’s emissions of greenhouse gases by around 35 per cent.

Environmentally Friendly Cremations based in Australia claims water cremation “produces less than 10 per cent of the carbon emissions” of fire cremation, and a firm based in the U.S. said the process “uses 90 per cent less energy than flame cremation.”

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 19, 2022 at 3:00 am

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