Cremation is a funeral rite that serves as an alternative to placing the deceased person in a coffin. The remains, often referred to as cremains, can be memorialized and buried, our kept by one or more relatives. Although cremation is at an all-time high mystery still surrounds the process; most people are unaware of the what takes place within crematoriums, and what happens to the human body during the process.
Arriving at the Facility
The deceased arrive at the crematorium in coffins or caskets, usually combustible ones. These are transported to a cooled room for a 24-hour or more waiting period. When ready, the deceased is placed on a metal gurney then wheeled to the cremation unit. The technician will confirm identification then place the deceased into the machine for cremation. The machine is called a cremator.
Inside the Chamber
The brick-lined chamber called the retort can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but 1,200 to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit is usually sufficient to turn the body into gas and bone fragments. Heat dries the body until soft tissue vaporizes and the bones crumble.
Modern cremators monitor the interior of the unit to make sure the process is fully completed. The process typically takes one to three hours and produces an average of five pounds of cremains.
Factors that affect cremation time are:
- The weight of the deceased.
- The deceased’s body composition; how much lean mass and body fat are present.
- The type of cremation container used.
- The temperature of the cremator, and how well-maintained the equipment is.
Cremains are commonly referred to as ashes, but in actuality, those are bone fragments. No odor is emitted because of a maze of emission ducts.
The cremains are then pulverized using a machine called a cremulator. Those remains are placed in an urn and given to next-of-kin. Personalized urns can be purchased at crematories, but if you don’t want one then the remains will be returned in a plastic container.
Some materials are not consumed in the cremation process. Most non-consumable materials such as jewelry or mechanical devices should be removed before cremation.
Metal hardware from the original container such as screws and hinges do not turn to ash. Dental fillings, implants, and prosthetics have to be removed using magnets or forceps. These materials can then be processed by other companies called cremation remains processors for recycling.
Regulations differ from country to country. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission oversees the funeral industry but not the cremation industry. Individual state and local governments are typically responsible for regulating and licensing crematories.
Standards and requirements are different for each state, but they all stipulate appropriate handling of the deceased and the remains to ensure your loved one is treated respectfully and that only he or she is returned to you.