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Resomation: an Eco-Friendly Alternative to Cremation?

What is resomation?
Resomation is an alternative process for the disposal of human remains using alkaline hydrolysis.  The process was first proposed as a method of disposing of cows infected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) because the end product is a sterile, genetically-free green-brown liquid, containing ash, chemical components (amino acids, peptides, sugars, salts), and porous bone fragments. The creators, the British firm Resomation Limited, claim the process is much more ecologically friendly than cremation.

The body is placed into a silk bag within a metal frame, then lowered into the resomation chamber. The chamber is filled with a high-temperature (160 degrees Celsius) mixture of water and potassium hydroxide which is pressurized to prevent boiling, and the process takes approximately three hours. The bone ash is generally processed in a cremulator and can be scattered just like cremated remains, and the liquid recycled back into the ecosystem.

What are the Benefits?
Unlike cremation, resomation sterilizes rather than destroying bone implants, leaving them potentially recyclable, and it doesn’t vaporize the toxic mercury found in dental fillings. While some proponents of resomation argue it is better for the environment because the process uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide than cremation, there is still a significant energy draw to heat and pressurize the water in the resomation chamber.

Does Phaneuf Funeral Home Practice Resomation?
While I have been interviewed on WMUR and have been quoted in the Union Leader and Concord Monitor that I do support the right of the individual to choose resomation, it is not legal in the State of New Hampshire, so Phaneuf is currently unable to offer this service.

Where is Resomation Legal?
Currently, resomation is legal in Minnesota and in Florida and is currently being used on cadavers for funeral practices and for research purposes.  In New Hampshire, the process was legalized in 2006, but this decision was reversed in 2007 because it was introduced into legislation that was created to regulate cremation, and the actual resomation process bears very little resemblance to cremation.  Similar legislation is currently proposed in a bill headed for an Assembly vote in California that seeks to broaden the definition of cremation to include the use of either fire or water.

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