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What is Aquamation: A Complete Guide

In a world where traditions are evolving, so too are the ways we bid farewell to our loved ones. Enter aquamation, a contemporary approach to the age-old question of what happens after we’re gone. Forget everything you thought you knew about funerals; aquamation is making waves as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial and cremation.

Can you imagine a process that gently cradles the environment, using water and a touch of science to return our physical forms to the Earth with minimal impact? It’s not science fiction; it’s aquamation, and it’s changing the game.

From the mysteries of the aquamation process to the pros and cons that come with this water-based farewell, join us on a journey through the ins and outs of this innovative method. As we dive deep into the realms of preservation, cost, and legality, discover why aquamation is causing ripples in the age-old pond of end-of-life choices.

What is Aquamation?

Aquamation is a modern and eco-friendly method of disposition for human remains. Unlike traditional burial or cremation, aquamation utilizes a water-based process to break down the body, leaving only the bones. The process involves placing the body in a stainless-steel chamber filled with a combination of water and an alkali solution, typically potassium hydroxide.

 

Process of Aquamation

The process of aquamation, also known as water cremation or alkaline hydrolysis, is a fascinating and eco-friendly method of handling human remains. Let’s unravel the steps involved in this unique process:

 

1- Preparation

The aquamation process begins with placing the deceased in a specially designed stainless-steel chamber. This chamber is equipped to handle the delicate yet precise conditions required for aquamation.

 

2- Alkaline Solution

A solution of water and an alkali, often potassium hydroxide, is then added to the chamber. This alkaline solution plays a crucial role in facilitating the breakdown of organic matter.

 

3- Heating

The mixture in the chamber is heated to an elevated temperature, usually around 160-180 degrees Celsius (320-356 degrees Fahrenheit). This controlled heat, combined with the alkaline solution, accelerates the natural decomposition process.

 

4- Decomposition

Over the next several hours, the body undergoes a process similar to natural decomposition, but at an accelerated rate. The combination of heat and alkalinity breaks down organic materials.

 

5- Bone Preservation

What remains after the process is a clean set of bones. Unlike traditional cremation, where bones turn to ashes, aquamation preserves the skeletal structure.

 

6- Processing Bones

The bones are then carefully removed from the chamber and processed into a fine, white powder. This powder, similar in appearance to traditional cremation ashes, is what is returned to the family.

 

7- Liquid Byproduct

Simultaneously, a sterile liquid byproduct is produced during the aquamation process. This liquid is environmentally safe and can be responsibly discharged, adding an eco-friendly element to the entire procedure.

 

8- Final Product

The result is a collection of bone powder, free from the environmental concerns associated with traditional cremation.

 

Pros and Cons of Aquamation

As with any alternative method, aquamation comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision:

 

Pros

 

  • Environmental Friendliness

Aquamation has a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to traditional cremation, making it an environmentally conscious choice.

 

  • Reduced Emissions

The process produces fewer emissions, contributing to cleaner air and reduced environmental impact.

 

  • Safe Byproduct

The liquid byproduct is sterile and safe for disposal, posing no environmental hazards.

 

  • Preservation of Dental Work

Dental amalgam, which doesn’t burn in traditional cremation, can be safely recovered and disposed of in aquamation.

 

  • Gentle Decomposition

Aquamation mimics the natural process of decomposition, but in an accelerated and controlled environment, preserving the dignity of the deceased.

 

Cons

 

  • Limited Availability

Aquamation facilities are not as widespread as crematoriums, potentially limiting accessibility for some individuals.

 

  • Perceived Unfamiliarity

The unfamiliarity of aquamation might make some people uncomfortable, as it is still a relatively novel approach.

 

  • Equipment and Energy Usage

The specialized equipment required for aquamation can make it a more expensive option. Additionally, the process may consume more energy than traditional cremation.

 

  • Potential for Regulatory Challenges

Regulatory challenges and varying laws may impact the availability of aquamation in certain regions, leading to legal uncertainties.

 

  • Extended Process Time

Aquamation typically takes longer than traditional cremation, ranging from 8 to 12 hours. This may affect scheduling and the overall funeral process.

 

How Does Aquamation Work?

Aquamation works through a process called alkaline hydrolysis. The combination of water and an alkali solution in a controlled environment accelerates the natural decomposition of the body. The result is a sterile liquid byproduct and bone remnants. The liquid can be safely disposed of, while the bones are processed into a powder, similar to the ash produced in traditional cremation.

 

How Much Does Aquamation Cost?

The cost of aquamation can vary based on several factors, including location, funeral home services, and additional options chosen by the family. It’s important to note that, on average, aquamation tends to be comparable to or slightly more expensive than traditional cremation. Here’s a breakdown of potential costs and considerations:

Service/ItemAverage Cost Range
Aquamation Process$1,500 – $3,500
Urn (optional)$50 – $500
Memorial Service (optional)$500 – $2,000
Transportation$200 – $500

 

Factors Influencing Costs

  • Geographic Location: Costs may vary based on the region and the availability of aquamation facilities.
  • Funeral Home Charges: Funeral homes may have varying service fees, impacting the overall cost.
  • Additional Services: Optional services, such as a memorial service or specific urn choices, can contribute to the total cost.
  • Transportation: Costs associated with transporting the deceased to the aquamation facility should be considered.
  • Urn Selection: Families can choose from a range of urns, with prices varying based on materials and design.

It’s advisable to contact local funeral homes that offer aquamation services for detailed and accurate pricing information. Keep in mind that these costs are estimates, and actual prices may differ based on individual preferences and the specific offerings of each funeral service provider.

Comparison Table

Here’s a comprehensive comparison table highlighting key aspects of aquamation in comparison to traditional cremation:

AspectAquamationCremation
Environmental ImpactLower carbon footprint, fewer emissionsHigher carbon footprint, emissions
ResidueSterile liquid safe for the environmentAsh requires careful disposal
Energy ConsumptionLower energy usageHigher energy usage
Bone PreservationBones are preservedBones remain as ashes
Dental WorkDental amalgam can be recovered and disposed ofDental amalgam may require separate disposal
Process Time8 to 12 hoursSeveral hours
AvailabilityLimited availabilityWidespread availability of crematoriums
CostComparable to traditional cremationVaried, influenced by location and services
Acceptance and FamiliarityStill gaining acceptance, may be less familiarWidely accepted and familiar burial alternative

 

How Long Does Aquamation Take?

The aquamation process typically takes between 8 to 12 hours, depending on factors such as the individual’s weight and the specific equipment used. The process is generally faster than traditional cremation, which can take several hours.

Aquamation vs Cremation

Aquamation and cremation both serve as methods of disposition, but they differ in their processes and environmental impact. While cremation uses high heat to burn the body and produce ashes, aquamation relies on water and an alkali solution to break down the body, leaving bones behind. The choice between the two may depend on personal beliefs, environmental concerns, and the availability of facilities.

Where is Aquamation Illegal?

Aquamation is legal in several states and countries, however, regulations regarding aquamation may vary, and it’s essential to check local laws. Currently, there is no comprehensive list of places where aquamation is illegal. Always consult with local authorities or funeral service providers for the most up-to-date information.

Where is Aquamation Legal?

Aquamation is legal in a growing number of states in the United States, including California, Colorado, Florida, and Minnesota. Additionally, some countries, such as Canada and Australia, have embraced aquamation as a legal and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional burial and cremation.

Conclusion

As society continues to seek more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives, aquamation has emerged as a viable option for the disposition of human remains. Its lower carbon footprint, reduced emissions, and eco-friendly nature make it an attractive choice for those looking for alternatives to traditional burial and cremation.

However, availability, cost, and personal preferences will ultimately shape the decision. As aquamation gains wider acceptance, it’s essential to stay informed about its legal status in your location and consider all available options when planning end-of-life arrangements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1- Is aquamation the same as cremation?

No, aquamation and cremation are different methods of disposition. Aquamation uses water and an alkali solution to break down the body, leaving bones behind, while cremation uses high heat to burn the body and produce ashes.

2- How does aquamation compare to traditional burial in terms of environmental impact?

Aquamation generally has a lower carbon footprint and produces fewer emissions compared to traditional burial, making it a more environmentally friendly option.

3- What happens to the liquid byproduct of aquamation?

The liquid byproduct is sterile and safe for disposal. It can be responsibly discharged, adding an eco-friendly element to the entire procedure.

4- Is aquamation more expensive than traditional cremation?

On average, aquamation tends to be comparable to or slightly more expensive than traditional cremation. However, costs may vary based on location, funeral home services, and additional options chosen by the family.

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