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Human Body Weight and Its Effects
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By Alan Kroboth

The following article contains information provided at the last CANA Operator Certification Course presented by the Matthews Cremation Division Instructors and CANA's Certification Chairman. CANA acknowledges the contribution provided by the Matthews Cremation Division to our members.

Body size (weight) and levels of body fat have considerable effects on the operation of your cremation equipment. A body weighing more than 300 pounds should be treated with caution. It is strongly recommended that you contact your equipment manufacturer for any special instructions PRIOR to performing a cremation of heavy human remains.

The following is a general list of items that should be considered when performing a cremation of heavy human remains.

  1. The cremation unit must be COOL and be the FIRST cremation of the day or not less than 12 hours since the last cremation in the cremation unit.
  2. Pre-heat the afterchamber or secondary chamber as you would normally do and as may be required by your environmental permit.
  3. Prior to loading cremation container/casket, ensure that container/casket will fit into primary chamber with at least 1 inch clearance on sides and top vertical edges. You may want to consider using two cardboard rollers or steel rollers.
  4. At the time to load, consider loading container/casketed human remains in reverse so that the bulk or mass is farthest away from the cremation burner.
  5. During the loading operation, take your time and go SLOWLY. Be careful not to scrape walls or roof of the primary chamber. When loading is complete and ID disc has been placed in chamber, close door.
  6. The operator must keep CONTROL of the cremation process. Turn on the cremation burner and ignite the container/casket. Watch the temperature. As the temperature begins to rise approximately 100 to 200 degrees, immediately TURN OFF the cremation burner. Watch the temperature. If the temperature remains constant or falls, the ignition procedure may have to be performed again. The operator MUST remain with the cremation equipment throughout this process.
  7. If the temperature steadily increases in the primary chamber, the cremation process has successfully started. Keep in mind, that body fat has a BTU value close to 17 times that of normal tissue. Therefore there is probably enough energy in the body itself to sustain the cremation process for a period of time. The operator MUST remain with the cremation equipment.
  8. As the temperature rises in the primary chamber, the secondary chamber temperature will also rise above its set point. As the secondary chamber temperature rises, the gases will travel faster through the secondary chamber. The operator should be aware that this condition may cause visible emissions. Turn off the secondary or afterburner until the temperature stabilizes or falls back to the original set point.
  9. Once the temperature in the primary chamber begins to FALL, and not before, the operator may begin to set up the cremation unit as a normal cremation. The operator MUST remain with the cremation unit and KEEP CONTROL OF THE CREMATION PROCESS. The points made here are for general guidance. It is imperative that an operator discuss with the cremation unit manufacturer any special instructions PRIOR to performing a heavy cremation.