Paul F. Rahill
Matthews Cremation Division
The Cremation Association of North America’s (CANA) contribution to the development of accurate and reliable environmental data has been acknowledged by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). CANA is cited as the reference by the US EPA for human cremation statistics for the United States. Also, the joint test project performed and co-financed by CANA and the US EPA is now the national reference for mercury and other pollutants from human crematories ("EPA National Emissions Inventory”). The following statement was published in the Federal Register volume 69:
"In considering the nature of human crematories since the previous OSWI Federal Register notices were published, EPA has come to the conclusion that the human body should not be labeled or considered "solid waste.” Therefore, human crematories are not solid waste combustion units, and are not a subcategory of OSWI for regulation. If EPA or States determine, in the future, that human crematories should be considered for regulation, they would be addressed under other authorities.”
The US EPA based their recommendations of no regulations for human and animal crematories on actual data collected for a wide variety of pollutants including mercury. The US EPA determined (based on 1999 CANA cremation rates) that all US crematories, together, would have produced a total of 238 lbs. of mercury emissions in 1999. If we update the mercury emissions levels to include both the US and Canada using 2004 cremation rates, the mercury emissions would be approximately 320 lbs. . With 2050 crematories operating in the US and Canada, this would average out to about 0.15 lbs of mercury emissions per crematory per year. If you could capture 100% of the mercury from a crematory processing an average of 400 cremations per year, for one full year, the total mercury captured would be the smaller than a typical household sugar cube.
Mercury enters the cremation cycle, and therefore crematory emissions, is through silver amalgam dental fillings found in some dead human bodies.
Silver amalgam fillings contain mercury alloys that when exposed to the intense heat of the cremation process results in the volatilization of mercury and its emissions into the atmosphere.
How ever the use of Silver amalgam tooth fillings containing mercury is in significant decline. It is estimated that at one time silver amalgam represented almost 90%. Within the last 10 years, this has declined by 38% (United States Center for Disease Control), a significant decrease.
The recommendation by the US EPA has been open for comments for a period that ended February 7, 2005. Comments received were considered and a final determination was made in December 2005. Overall, CANA’s visibility and credibility as the industry experts continues to grow with these types of outcomes and dividends for the cremation industry.