Monday, November 28

What is aquamation, the alternative that is promoted as “more ecological” than cremation

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, hero of the struggle against apartheid and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who died on December 26, asked that his body be subdued. to aquamation.

It was “what I aspired to as an environmental activist,” said the Rev. Michael Weeder.

And it is that this procedure is presented by its promoters as a “greener” alternative to cremation.

The technique reduce bodies to ashes, as would happen with a cremation, but without the need for combustion.

According to the UK-based company Resomation, an “independent environmental analysis” showed that using cremation with water instead of flames “reduced the greenhouse gas emissions from that funeral by approximately 35%.”

For its part, the company Bio-Response, which specializes in the process in the United States, indicates that this technology reduces energy use by “90% compared to cremation with flames.”

The scientific name of the process is alkaline hydrolysis, and involves weighing the body and then heating it to 150 ° C in a mixture of potassium hydroxide and water for 90 minutes.

This dissolves body tissue, leaving only the bones, which are then rinsed at 120 ° C, dried and pulverized using a machine called a cremulator.

Once all these steps are completed, the remains can be buried or scattered according to the wishes of the deceased, just as it would happen in an ordinary cremation.

Some countries

The technique mimics the alkaline hydrolysis process that occurs naturally when a body decomposes, only in this case the decomposition that occurs over a period of up to 20 years occurs in a matter of few hours.

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Aquamation has been going on for several years, but only in some countries.

In 2011, for example, on BBC Mundo we reported on the installation in a Florida funeral home, United States, of the first commercial alkaline hydrolysis machine:

In 2014, Philip Olson, a technology ethicist at Virginia Tech, wrote the article Flush and Bone: Funeralizing Alkaline Hydrolysis in the United States (“Funeralization of alkaline hydrolysis in the United States”) in the trade journal: Science, Technology, & Human Values.

“Proponents focus on the environmental benefits of alkaline hydrolysis on cremation and burial, aligning the technology with the ‘green burial’ movement,” he noted.

In the United States, the author noted, the technique it began to be used in the 90s by Albany Medical College researchers who were looking for “an efficient and inexpensive way to dispose of experimental animal remains that contained low-level radioisotopes.”

In 2014, the procedure was legal in eight states of the United States, and, according to the researcher, there were sectors that they strongly opposed to that technology.

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