Cremation and alkaline hydrolysis (AH)
Cremation is a method of final disposition of a dead body through burning, usually 1800 - 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more.
Through cremation the body is reduced to its basic elements, which are referred to as the "cremated body" or "cremated remains". Cremation occurs at a crematorium in a special kind of furnace called a cremation chamber or retort (see photo). It may surprise many to learn that ashes are not the final result since cremated remains have neither the appearance nor the chemical properties of ashes. They are, in fact, bone fragments. These fragments are further reduced in size through a mechanical process. After preparation, these elements are placed in a temporary container that is suitable for transport. Depending upon the size of the body, there are normally three to nine pounds of fragments resulting.
What is the average cost of cremation in Alberta?
As a very general guide, a cremation is likely to cost a quarter of the cost of a burial. A simple, direct cremation in Alberta can start at around $1,500 whereas a cremation with a service, and extra disbursements (obit notice, viewing, funeral flowers, etc), may cost in the region of $7,500. Cremation service costs will vary depending upon your city and service provider.
What is involved with cremation – can it be done right away?
With cremation there are legal requirements and documents that need to be completed. Once all of this documentation is in order the cremation will take place, usually within 2 – 5 days. The funeral home will look after these necessary requirements. Public or private services can be held before or after cremation.
What options are available with the cremated remains?
There are countless options and laws do vary by province. Some options include remains being buried in a cemetery lot or cremation garden, inurned in a columbarium, kept at home, or scattered in a green space.
Alberta Parks governs the scattering of cremated remains in Alberta parks. In 2019, new regulations came into force that allow cremated ashes to be scattered on unoccupied provincial government-owned Crown land or water, including provincial parks, without official government approval. The new guidelines suggest that “care must be taken to ensure that ashes are not scattered near water treatment intakes and facilities or places where recreational water activities occur.”
Do I have to get the cremated remains?
Yes, Funeral Homes are not a cemetery for the final disposition of an urn or ashes. The recommended method of disposition is permanent placement of the cremated remains in a cemetery or columbarium. This allows families an opportunity to visit the site as the years go by, to remember and reflect. An urn can also be kept at home or ashes scattered in a cemetery scattering garden.
Cremated remains may not be scattered or otherwise disposed of in any public area or on private property without permission from the owner of the property. The Cemetery Act states: If the remains of a cremated body are not claimed within five years from the date of cremation and if the owner of the crematory/funeral home has been unable to arrange for disposition by a responsible relative of the deceased, the crematorium/funeral home may bury the remains at their discretion.
Can I fly with cremated remains?
You may bring cremated remains in a cremation container or urn on the plane with you, but first it must pass through the X-ray*.
Are there any religions that do not approve of cremation?
Orthodox Judaism and Islam forbid cremation. Today, all of the Christian denominations allow cremation. All other main religions are happy for their members to choose to be cremated. (The Catholic Church accepts cremation as long as it is not chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teachings.)
Does cremation contribute to atmospheric pollution?
The 1990 Environmental Protection Act placed certain responsibilities on crematoria to ensure that the process is carefully controlled to minimize the impact on the environment.
Is a casket required for a cremation to take place? A casket is not required for a cremation to take place. All that is required is an alternative container. The construction can be made of wood or cardboard, which is cremated with the body.
How can one be certain that all remains are kept separate, and receive the correct remains?
All responsible cremation providers have thorough operating policies and procedures in order to provide the highest level of service and reduce the possibility of human error. If you have questions, ask the cremation providers what procedures they use.
Is it required for an embalming to take place prior to cremation?
No. Actually it is against the law for a funeral home to tell you it is required.
Can a cremation be witnessed by the family?
Yes, in most situations, the cremation providers will permit family members to be in attendances when the body is placed into the cremation chamber. Actually, a few religious groups include this as part of their funeral practice.
Do most funeral homes have a crematory onsite? Many funeral homes have to contract out this very vital process to third party providers. As a result, the family could incur additional transportation operating cost and delays. Several of the CCMS contracted funeral providers manage and operate their own cremation facility.
What usually happens after the cremation is finished? All organic bone fragments and all non-consumed metal items are placed into a stainless steel cooling pan located in the back of the cremation chamber. All non-consumed items, such as metal from clothing, hip joints, and bridgework, are divided from the cremated remains. This separation is accomplished through visual inspection as well as using a strong magnet for smaller and minute metallic objects. Items such as dental gold and silver are non-recoverable and are commingled in with the cremated remains. Remaining bone fragments are then processed in a machine to a consistent size and placed into a temporary or permanent urn, selected by the family.
Can more than one cremation be performed at once? It is never done. Not only is it practical impossibility, but illegal to do so. The majority of modern cremation chambers are not of adequate size to house more than one adult.
What do cremated remains look like? Cremated remains bear a resemblance to coarse sand and are pasty white in color. The remains of a normal size adult usually weigh between four to six pounds.
Are all cremated remains returned to the family? With the exclusion of minuscule and microscopic particles, which are impossible to remove from the cremation chamber and processing machine, all of the cremated remains are returned to the family.
Are urns required to collect the cremated remains? Law does not require an urn. Nevertheless, an urn may be desired if there is to be a memorial service or the remains are to be interred in a cemetery. If an urn is not purchased, or provided by the family, the cremated remains are usually returned in a temporary container.
Families are encouraged to consult a licensed funeral director about cremation options and acceptable methods of handling cremated remains.
What is aquamation or alkaline hydrolysis (AH)?
Alkaline hydrolysis (AH), also referred to as aquamation uses an alkaline water solution to slowly and gently break down the body into a powder-like substance similar to cremated ashes. Depending on the heat of the water, which is between 200 and 300°F, the process takes between six and 20 hours. Today, AH is being discussed as an environmentally aware choice since it's considered more environmentally sound for various reasons. (Aquamation or AH is not yet available in Alberta.)
A look at aquamation — cremation by water instead of fire — in Canada (CBC Life, Posted: Sep 27, 2022)
Still have an unanswered question?
If you have a question about cremation that is not answered here, we encourage you to call any one of our service providers directly.
Information provided by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes and Cremationinfo.com