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Updated: Sep 20, 2023




A Modern Funeral House
A Modern Funeral House

Cremation is the process of disposing of a body by reducing it to ashes with intense heat. This process takes place in a crematorium. Most crematoriums have a viewing chamber, or chapel, where family and friends can hold the funeral immediately prior to cremation. Crematoriums are commonly located at funeral homes or cemeteries but are sometimes located in chapels. Most crematoriums are private businesses, however, some are run by government agencies.


Early Crematorium Equipment
Early Crematorium Equipment

In India, before the industrial revolution, cremations commonly took place in the open air with wood, coal, and other flammable materials. The regenerative furnace was developed by Sir Charles William Siemens in the 1850s. Later, at the Vienna Exhibition in 1873, a demonstration of Brunetti's cremating apparatus attracted great attention. One particularly interested party was Henry Thompson, a pioneer of cremation in England.

The Cremation Society of Great Britain was founded in 1874 to ascertain the legality of cremation. This led to the construction of the first crematorium, or crematory, in England. It came into service in 1885. The Protestants were the first practitioners of cremation. It wasn’t until1963 that Pope Paul VI revoked the ban on cremation for Catholics. Since the beginning of the 20th century, cremation has become more widely accepted throughout the world. Crematories are now more common.

The Cremation Process

Cremation Process
Cremation Process

Before cremation, it may be necessary to embalm the body if the family members want to view the body as part of the funeral service. Regulations regarding embalming vary by location. Embalming is usually carried out with fluid consisting of formaldehyde, methanol, and other solvents. Because of the toxicity of the embalming fluids, some families opt not to have a public viewing in order to avoid embalming prior to cremation.

The body is put into a flammable cremation casket and a metal identification tag is attached. The cremation furnace warms the cremation chamber. This chamber is constructed from superior masonry compound and fire-resistant bricks that can withstand extremely high temperatures. The casket is then placed in the cremation chamber. Modern crematories have automatic doors that prevent heat loss, but even with a manual door the cremation chamber is shut and the cremation begins.

The modern cremation furnace is fuelled by natural gas or propane. The main burner is ignited and the temperature within the chamber rises to 1800-2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The entire cremation process takes between 11/2 to 4 hours. This can vary depending on the size of the body, the technology of the cremation furnace, and the type of cremation chamber.

Equipment in the Crematorium

Modern Cremation Chamber
Modern Cremation Chamber

The Combustion Chamber

A combustion chamber usually consists of two parts – a primary chamber and a secondary chamber. The casket with the body inside is placed in the primary chamber. Upon ignition, water contained in the body vaporizes and organic tissues oxidize. Smoke is directed into the secondary chamber at the end of or above the primary chamber. This chamber burns the organic materials released from the primary chamber to reduce air pollution and eliminate the emission of odors and smoke.

Technology to Reduce Pollution and Save Energy

Cremation technology continues to advance and has brought about more efficient cremation furnaces and automated cremation. The latest hi-tech crematories are fully automatic, reliable, and quiet. Operating controls include features to improve usability and reduce maintenance.

A Typical Incinerator
A Typical Incinerator

Features Include:

1. A continuous 24-hour operation that does not require cooling down between cremations

2. Special features such as a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) to cremate obese cadavers

3. Low noise output

4. An advanced air combustion distribution system to control emissions and pollution

More recently, crematoriums have started to innovate an environmentally friendly technology, aimed at minimizing carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses. The introduction of alkaline hydrolysis, also known as bio-cremation or resonation, has led to a significant reduction of carbon dioxide. This new process involves immersing the body in a mixture of water and lye and heating it to a temperature of 320 degrees Fahrenheit, at high pressure to prevent boiling. This breaks down the body effectually into its chemical components. The entire process takes about 3 hours.

Hygiene and Cleanliness

It is essential to maintain high standards of hygiene and cleanliness in the crematorium in order to avoid both bad odors and the risk of infection. By doing so, managers can ensure a healthy working environment for cremators and make it a suitable environment for clients and visitors. Promoting cleanliness and hygiene also helps in an environmental context. All of this is regulated by authorities, trade organizations, and environmental legislation.

What Does It Take to Work in the Crematorium?

A crematorium technician has a broad range of responsibilities besides cremating. These duties include:

  • Cleaning and preparing the chapel

  • Ensuring proper functioning of the crematory furnace

  • Keeping records and ensuring compliance with all legislation and other regulations

  • Ensuring the deceased is correctly identified and stored

  • Escorting and comforting the family of the deceased

Working in a crematorium requires strong administrative and interpersonal skills. A minimum educational standard of a high school diploma is typically preferred, but most crematorium technicians receive specialized on-the-job training.

Official training is offered by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management(ICCM) in the United Kingdom. This is known as the Crematoriums Technicians’ Training Scheme (CTTS) and has two levels: the Intermediate Certificate for ICCM where the trainee is placed under the supervision of the mentor, and the Advanced Certificate for ICCM, where one can work individually without supervision.

In the United States of America, the crematory technician needs to be certified by the Crematory Association of North America. There is a one-day training course which gives the technician the basic certification. Along with this qualification, a competent crematorium technician needs to be:

  • Discreet, sympathetic, and respectful

  • Possess excellent communication and managerial skills

  • Be able to work unsupervised within the set regulations

Well Known Crematoriums

There are over 300 crematoriums in the United Kingdom. Most have either a woodland burial site or a cemetery attached. Cremation is currently the most popular type of funeral in the UK - 72% of all deceased are cremated. Cremation in the UK is advocated by a special interest organization called the Cremation Association of Great Britain.

The increased acceptance of cremation has led to an interest in making diamonds out of ashes. This is becoming an alternative to spreading the ashes of a pet or loved one. To turn cremated ashes into diamonds requires a highly skilled workforce and a highly technical environment. Making diamonds out of ashes is a way to permanently remember the beloved deceased person.

Golders Green Crematorium

Golders Green Crematorium
Golders Green Crematorium

Golders Green is one of the most well-known crematoriums in the United Kingdom. It was the first to be built in London and one of the first in Britain. It is often viewed as the flagship of crematoriums worldwide. Located along Finchley Road, directly opposite the Jewish cemetery, the crematory is Italian-designed. It is situated on 12 acres of gardens which produce a beautiful and tranquil environment for visitors.

Golders Green Crematorium is well known due to the cremation of various notable persons. Dignitaries and celebrities cremated here have come from many different career backgrounds such as music, art, theatre, films, and politics. These include Sigmund Freud, Neville Chamberlain, Anna Palova, and Ivor Novello, among many others.

The Heart of Texas

Heart of Texas - Affordable Funeral Services Provider
Heart of Texas - Affordable Funeral Services Provider

Just like in the UK, the United States of America (USA) has seen an increase in the acceptance of cremation. It is estimated that about 48.3% of Americans were cremated in 2015. This has led to a steady increase in the number of crematories throughout the country.

The Heart of Texas is one of the most popular crematoriums in the USA. Located in Texas, it is well known because of its low-price guarantee, offering the best services in Texas. It has two locations: Austin and San Antonio, both of which offer the same competitive customer service and funeral plans. With a wide variety of urns and caskets to choose from, it is an accredited member of the Cremation Association of North America.

Other Funeral Places and Types of Funerals

Traditional Burial
Traditional Burial

A Memorial Garden is a place dedicated to honoring and remembrance of those we love. These are usually peaceful and tranquil locations set aside for the interment of cremation remains.

They offer several different types of funerals, mostly determined by ethnicity, culture, and religious background. Traditional funerals are conducted in accordance with the traditional ways practiced by each community or religious group.

More green and woodland funerals are occurring as a result of the rise of environmental awareness. In these funerals, the coffin is biodegradable and buried no deeper than two feet to reduce methane emissions. Health regulations limit the availability of green funerals since regulations typically require embalming, and the introduction of chemicals negates the intent of a green funeral.

Humanistic and civic funerals are strictly non-religious and focus on celebrating the life of the deceased. Often a humanistic funeral is conducted as a memorial service after the body of the deceased has been cremated and the cremation remains scattered or buried.

Burial at sea is not encouraged by the authorities, however, it is still widely practiced with stringent regulations in most countries for its use. Disposal of cremation remains is more widely accepted and is considered by many to be a realistic alternative to full burial at sea.

The process of turning cremated ashes into diamonds is also a growing trend as a type of funeral. Because of the long-time frame between the death of the individual and the creation of a cremation diamond, a ceremony either before or after the cremation is typically held, with another gathering to view the diamond made out of the ashes when it is completed.

Making diamonds out of ashes, spreading them on the waters, burying them in a family plot, or keeping them on a shelf are all accepted ways of coping with the loss of a loved one. Cremation is growing as a means of saying goodbye to loved ones, and what to do with the cremation remains is growing as well.

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