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What is Cremation?

Cremation is the disposing of dead bodies through incineration. High temperatures, vaporization, and oxidation reduce the body to basic chemical compounds. Remains are then disposed of or stored according to the wishes of the decedent or the decedent's family.

The cremation process

Cremation takes place in a crematory or crematorium (the terms are interchangeable). The furnace used is called a cremator and can generate temperatures that exceed 1700 degrees F, guaranteeing the complete disintegration of the corpse. The facility may be part of chapel, a funeral home, part of an independent facility, or a service offered by a cemetery. The time required to cremate a body is typically two hours for someone who weighed 200 pounds.

The chamber where the body is placed is called a retort. The coffin or container is inserted into the retort quickly to avoid heat loss through the top-opening door. The container may rest on a motorized trolley (charger) for quick insertion, or it may be placed on a fixed or movable hopper, allowing the container to slide into the cremator.

Computers control modern cremators to ensure legal and safe use. The retort door of the cremator cannot be opened until it has reached its operating temperature. United States federal regulations require newly constructed cremators to feature twin electrical and mechanical heat shutoff switches. A major innovation is door releases inside the retort.

Popularity of cremation

Cremation is one of the oldest practices for memorializing the dead, but it has only recently seen a resurgence in its popularity. At the present time, more than half of all Americans favor cremation, and it is believed that by 2025, cremation will surpass ground burial as the preferred method.

People choose cremation for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons are:

  • Cold weather restrictions
  • Concern for the environment
  • Ease of transport to distant interment sites
  • High cost of funerals
  • Costs for cremation services

Like all funeral services, costs vary with location and elaboration of services. In order to keep costs at reasonable rates, funeral directors suggest shopping the services among different providers, and pre-planning and paying to lock in costs at the lowest rates available.

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