Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Ways to dissolve a corpse
A Florida funeral home has introduced an eerie alternative to burial or cremation - body liquefaction.
The stainless steel machine can dissolve a corpse in just under three hours, and the 'brownish, syrupy' liquid is then pumped into the municipal water system.
The bones remaining can be ground down and returned to the family, rather like ashes from a cremation.
Resomation (from the Greek 'resoma' meaning 'rebirth of the human body') is an environmentally friendly alternative to burial or cremation, according to a BBC report.
The Anderson-McQueen funeral home in St Petersburg had the body liquefier put in just days after Florida became the seventh state to legalise the machines.
They plan to try it out on some dead bodies over the coming weeks.
The 'alkaline hydrolysis' unit, installed by a Glasgow-based company called Resomation Ltd, works by submerging the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide, which is then pressurised and heated to 180C for two-and-a-half to three hours.
The end result is a small quantity of green-brown tinted liquid containing amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts and soft, porous white bone remains which are easily crushed.
The white ash can then be returned to the next of kin of the deceased.
The liquid can be recycled back to the ecosystem by being applied to a memorial garden or forest or simply put into the sewerage system.
Resomation Ltd founder Sandy Sullivan said: 'Let's face it - there's no nice way to go. You have to go from what looks like a human person to ash and bone, whether you get there by flame or decomposition.
'If you stood in front of a cremation, with the flames and heat, it seems violent. You go next door and the resomation is quiet.
'It's stainless steel and clinical and sterile. It seems nicer and returns (a body) quickly to ash.
'We're using the exact same chemistry that's carried out by bacteria but instead of happening over months and years, it happens in three hours.'
A funeral director in Columbus, Ohio, reportedly had his body liquefying operation shut down a few months ago - after 19 uses - because it was not approved by the state.
Resomation Ltd claim that the system can reduce a funeral home's greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent, and that mercury emissions - typically released from dental fillings during cremations - are eliminated.
A scientist told the BBC that disposing of remains in a municipal water system is perfectly safe.
The UK is considering bringing in the technology here.