Thursday, March 24, 2011

Acid alternative

Sinister associations with multiple murderers John George "Acid Bath" Haigh, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Santiago "Stew Maker" Meza López notwithstanding, dissolving bodies in acid has been put forward by the funeral industry as a green alternative to cremation. Alkaline hydrolysis achieves in a matter of hours the decomposition that occurs naturally over months or years. A 300°F water-based chemical solution of lye is sprayed on a body at 60lbs (or more) of pressure per square inch in what looks sort of like a body-shaped stainless steel pressure cooker. Chemically, this forces water molecules between the bonds that hold the molecules such as fats, DNA, and proteins together. Tissue is broken down to its original small molecular building blocks. The resulting liquid may be disposed of down the drain, and the bone residue (2nd image) may be collected, dried, and pulverized for disposition like cremated remains.

The process, carried out in large steel cylinders, is already used in the U.S. at dozens of veterinary schools, universities, pharmaceutical companies, and the U.S. government to dispose of medical waste and animal carcasses, and is how cadavers at the University of Florida and the Mayo Clinic have been disposed of for years. Its use in funeral service is currently legal in Florida, Maine, and Oregon, and under review in New Hampshire. The legality of resomation is being evaluated in Ohio, where funeral director Jeff Edwards (1st image) has already performed the service for clients 20 times. "Getting the public to accept a process that strikes some as ghastly may be the biggest challenge," writes Norma Love for the Associated Press. Calling the method "resomation" rather than "tissue digestion" is a start. While the headline refers to it as "liquid cremation," Edwards prefers his own euphemism: "aquamation."


  1. CycledLife, manufacturer of alkaline hydrolysis systems, sold Jeff Edwards his system. We are appalled that the ODH denied an Ohioan a basic human right: to honor his dead. To date, only one out of over 500 families that have had the option to choose either an alkali disposition or a cremation stuck with cremation. Under the ORC: 2108.70 (3) and 3705.01, Ohioans have the right to choose how they wish to "go". Unless laws to the contrary are passed, alkaline hydrolysis is legal in OH. Families and funeral directors must comply with existing laws. The ODH, an executive branch of government, has no authority to create laws to protect the status quo in the funeral industry. Please consider showing your support for Jeff Edwards and the family that he is fighting to serve by allowing Edwards Funeral Service, in Columbus, OH, to serve your family. Forcing the decedent's husband to burn his wife and mother of his three children is a shameful act on the part of OH's government regulators.

  2. Very interesting... as a vet, I can see this might be a good option for animals..
    Feels a little weird for people, but then most things do. Does it have any implications in the drains?


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