Green Death: How Cremation and Conventional Burial Bad for the Environment?

If you think dying would save you from being liable to permanent environmental damage, think again! 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are lots of conversations surrounding the environmental impact of death.

And even before burial or cremation, even the embalming process can be toxic to the environment. 

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Embalming is used to delay decay of a body so it can be shown during a funeral service.  What makes embalming harmful is the toxic chemicals that are used.  Formaldehyde (one of the chemicals), is a carcinogen, that in high amounts is lethal to humans.

Each year an estimated 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde are put into the ground from traditional burials.  Along with the embalming fluid, traditional funerals use many materials.  

Cemeteries also require tons of water, pesticides, and fertilizers to keep the grass green.  Research has found that these chemicals can seep into water supplies and also harm wildlife. 

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Most people know the risks to the environment that burials cause, and that as well as the price is why more families are choosing cremation.  However, it is important to note that although not as harmful as burials, cremation does affect us and the environments.

In most countries, deaths caused by COVID-19 are advised to be instantly cremated to avoid spreading the virus further.

Using fire to turn a body into ashes has it effects on the environment, albeit less than traditional burials. During the cremation process, toxic chemicals are released into our air. This includes: carbon monoxide.

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So what are some environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of a corpse? 

Some people opt for green burials, which only use biodegradable materials in burying a dead body. Water cremation also exists, but it is not available or accessible everywhere. 

However, the way we bury dead people are usually intrinsically linked to traditions or social norms. It can also be very hard to adapt to new, non-traditional ways to put the dead to rest, especially if it involves our loved ones. 

Keep up with more stories here at the East County Gazette. 

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