FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What happens during the water cremation process?


The deceased is respectfully placed in a stainless steel basket that is placed in a sealed stainless steel vessel. A combination of 95% water, 5% alkali, temperature (200-300F), and gentle motion are used to accelerate the natural process of tissue decomposition. All organic material is reduced to its most basic building blocks with no DNA or RNA remaining. The sterile processed water is released for recycling and the inorganic bone minerals remain in the stainless steel basket. The bone minerals are processed into powder and returned to the family. This process is also known as alkaline hydrolysis.




Is the body dissolved in acid?


This is a common misconception. The water cremation process uses alkali, which is the chemical opposite of acid. Alkalis are made from sodium and potassium salts.




Are the alkalis used in this process safe for the environment?


Yes. The water cremation process uses 95% water and 5% alkali. The alkali is safe to handle with standard personal protective equipment. These are the same alkalis used in common household products like cosmetics, body washes, and food preparation. When the process completes the alkali has been completely neutralized and is no longer present in the water solution.




What happens to the water?


The cremation water output is routed to the water treatment center as a completely sterile mix of water, amino acids, sugars, nutrients, salts, and soap. At funeral homes, the blood and bodily fluids extracted during the embalming process also route to the water treatment center.




Are the powdered ashes safe to handle?


Yes. The cremated remains are 100% pathogen and disease free and safe to handle. The cremated remains are bone mineral made of calcium phosphate that will keep in an urn or may be buried or scattered in a special place.




Can the body be embalmed?


Yes. The embalming fluids are completely broken down and neutralized in the water cremation process. Families can remove the guilt of the harmful environmental impact of embalming fluids when choosing to embalm for a final viewing followed by a water cremation.




Are the ashes different than those from flame cremation?


The ashes from a flame cremation include ash from the bone and ash from the cremation casket, clothing, and all things placed in the retort with the body. The ashes from a water cremation are only the mineral remains from the bone, as only the stainless steal basket is present with the body in the water cremation vessel. The color of ash from a flame process is typically gray due to the carbon discoloration from burning. The color of ash from a water cremation ranges from white to tan. With both processes, there is variation in color from individual to individual. The ash from a flame cremation is often described as “chippy” bone fragments. The ash from water cremation is a fine powder with about 20% more remains returned to the family.




Is a casket used for this process?


Traditional caskets, boxes, and clothes will not break down during the water cremation process. For this reason the body is placed in a respectful water soluble bag that biodegrades during the process.




What happens to metal and medical implants?


Metals and medical implants are clean, sterilized, and look brand new after the water cremation process. Metals are sent to a metal refinery to be made into new materials. Some medical implants can skip the recycling step and be used again as is.




Do pacemakers need to be removed from the body prior to cremation?


With a flame based cremation, pacemakers and all battery operated medical implants are removed because the batteries will explode at the high temperatures. The lower temperature of a water cremation does not pose the risk of battery explosion to the crematory operator. The deceased skips the surgical device removal and the family avoids the cost of surgery. The pacemaker is recovered and recycled at the end of the water cremation process.




What is the impact of water usage?


The water cremation process uses less water than a single household uses in one day (source: water.usgs.gov). This includes the water used for the process, along with the after process rinsing of the vessel and final remains.




How long has the process been around?


The technology of water cremation has been in use by universities and the scientific industry for over 25 years. It has been used for the final disposition of human bodies donated to medical science since 1995. The first pet water cremation facility was opened in 2007, and the first funeral home to use the technology was in 2011.




What is the science behind the process?


With water cremation, also know as alkaline hydrolysis, a base is added to water to create an alkaline environment. This changes the behavior of the water molecules, causing them to disband into hydrogen and hydroxide ions. Our bodies are 65% water along with fat, protein, minerals, and carbohydrates. During the water cremation process, fats are reduced to salts, protein to amino acids and carbohydrates are reduced to sugars. The process breaks down all organic materials into their most basic building blocks, so small that no trace of protein or nucleic acids (DNA/RNA) remain. The organics are dissolved into the water. Once the process completes the liquid output is 96% water and 4% amino acids, sugars, and salts by weight.