Aquamation, more formally known as alkaline hydrolysis, is one of the newest end-of-life services. It’s a novel process that is similar to cremation, however, it uses no flame. Instead, a chemical solution that’s 5% sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide and 95% water is used. Eliminating incineration means that aquamation is extremely eco-friendly in addition to being affordable.
Like most new concepts, aquamation is slowly becoming available to more people in more places. And like all other end of life services, aquamation is often subject to regulations in each state. With each passing year, more states are allowing aquamation and creating their own set of rules for how the procedure is handled.
How Aquamation Works
Aquamation is unlike any other end of life service. It’s technologically advanced yet has a much lower impact on the environment compared to traditional burial and flame-based cremation. The end result is similar to cremation although the process mirrors accelerated burial decomposition.
In order for aquamation to be done three things are needed:
- Pressurized chamber
- Water/alkali solution
The body is placed in a stainless steel pressurized chamber filled with the water/alkali solution. The chamber is then heated to 350 degrees. The combination of the solution, heat and pressure causes a sped-up natural decomposition process. Everything but the bone decomposes. The bones are then ground into ash for the family. Because there is no burn-off, families that choose aquamation actually end up with about 20% more cremains.
States Where Aquamation is Regulated and Allowed
Is aquamation an option in your state? Has the state government already recognized the service and created formal regulations? Is it offered but there are no state regulations?
These states have already created regulations for aquamation services:
- North Carolina
The following states are in the process of creating aquamation regulations:
- Arizona (HB 2179 amends the law to include alkaline hydrolysis definitions and licensing fees)
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
If you’re wondering about the safety of alkaline hydrolysis rest assured that isn’t the top concern for state regulators. The Mayo Clinic has used the process for years when it receives body donations. The water alkali solution is natural and non-toxic. Once the procedure is complete the remaining solution is safe enough to put down the drain (although there are regulations for proper disposal).
Another thing to keep in mind is that regulation doesn’t mean there are local funeral homes that offer aquamation. U.S. News recently reported that only 8 of the 20 states that have legally approved alkaline hydrolysis have funeral homes providing the service.
What If Alkaline Hydrolysis Isn’t Regulated in My State?
Even if there are no aquamation laws on the books in your state, it still may be an option. However, it’s a bit of a grey area in the states that have neither established regulations nor outlawed the service.
Texas is a good example. Green Cremation Texas is one of the few funeral homes in the state that offers the service although a house bill outlining regulations has yet to be approved. It’s a sign that the state is favorable to the service, is working to get regulations on the books and isn’t outlawing it.
Since the laws and regulations pertaining to aquamation are changing all the time, those who are interested in the service should check with their state regulatory boards. They will be able to provide the most up-to-date information regarding which end of life services can be performed.