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  • Writer's pictureAloha Mortuary

Misconceptions About Water-Based Cremation

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Every now and then, a new innovation comes around that changes how we do things. In the burial services sector, water cremation has been gaining popularity as an alternative to the traditional burial and fire cremation methods. In the United States, more and more people across different states are opting for water-based cremation for their family members and loved ones who have passed away.

All About Water Cremation

Also known as alkaline hydrolysis, water cremation is an environmentally friendly option to the traditional fire cremation method that most people are familiar with. During the process, different factors such as water, heat, alkaline chemicals, and pressure are used to speed up the natural decomposition of the body, leaving behind fragments of bone and effluent, a neutral liquid.

The decomposition that happens in water cremation is similar to that in a traditional burial, except for the fact that the whole process is accelerated by a great deal due to the alkaline that is used.

Misconceptions about Water Cremation

Just like many groundbreaking innovations in the world, there is bound to be a learning curve when it comes to adapting a new technology like alkaline hydrolysis. During this period, there are bound to be many misconceptions and myths that can be widely spread and misunderstood as facts.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of those misconceptions and get to the real truth behind them.

#1 - It is illegal.

There is a lot of debate that goes on as to whether or not alkaline hydrolysis is legal. In the United States, each state has their set of regulations when it comes to death services. As of now, there are 21 states that have fully legalized water cremation services as an alternative to traditional burial and fire-based cremation. Oregon was one of the most recent states to adopt the practice, and other states are likely to follow suit. Hawai‘i is one of those who are looking to pass it as law with the HB 1894 Water Cremation Bill, which aims to encourage the return to ancient Native Hawaiian burial practices by allowing and legalizing water cremation.

#2 - The grieving family doesn’t get the remains back.

Compared to a traditional fire cremation, there are about 20 to 30 percent more remains in a water-based one. As such, the surviving family members are often advised to acquire bigger than usual urns. With water cremation, pressure and low temperatures are used to decompose the body naturally to the bones, which are then ground into powder form. As alkaline hydrolysis preserves a greater quantity of the bones, there is, therefore, a larger amount of remains.

#3 - It can only be processed at medical facilities.

It was in 1993 that the first commercial water-based cremation was performed at Albany Medical College in Albany, New York. While it is true that alkaline hydrolysis has been practiced for decades at numerous medical facilities, nowadays, many funeral homes and crematoriums around the United States are now fully equipped to conduct water cremations inside their own premises.

#4 - It offers no advantages over traditional fire cremation.

If you desire to make a positive impact on the environment as you leave the planet, water cremation is a better choice than a typical fire-based one. With the former, you consume around 90 percent less of energy and emit 75 percent less carbon emissions than the latter, proving it to be the more eco-conscious alternative.

Another advantage is the absence of harmful byproducts such as toxic gasses and pollutants. While fire cremation is more practical and eco-friendly than a traditional burial, it still emits carbon dioxide into the air as well as other pollutants. The fossil fuels used in fire cremation services come at a great cost to the environment. With water cremation, there are no such toxic byproducts because there is no burning involved.

Moreover, any implants in the body do not have to be surgically removed before the process. They are not destroyed and can even be recycled once the process is done.

#5 - The remaining fluids are not safe for disposal.

One common question many people have about alkaline hydrolysis is what is done with the remaining fluids after the cremation is done. The effluents, another term for the leftover fluids, are sterile and contain amino acids, sugars, salts, and peptides. They do not contain any tissues and DNA. And as they also do not contain harmful chemicals, such as embalming fluid, they are safe to dispose of by pouring them down the drain. The fluids are then treated at a wastewater treatment facility.


Ultimately, water cremation is a practical and environmentally conscious way of leaving this Earth. It offers grieving families a gentler and safer burial option for their loved ones who have passed away.

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