What are cremated remains?

Because I get many questions about the cremation process in general I thought this article should be about what are cremated remains and what they are not.

What is Cremation?

I haven’t come across one standard definition of what cremation is.  According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), the definition of cremation is “The mechanical and/or thermal or other dissolution process that reduces human remains to bone fragments”.  Although I have heard of means such as “mechanical and dissolution”, the only process I am familiar with is the thermal process.

In this process the casket is placed in a cremation chamber.  The temperature is raised to between 1400 and 1800 degrees.  The body is exposed to this heat and flame for 2 to 2 ½ hours.  What is left is just the dried bone fragments.  These fragments are then processed further by pulverization, resulting in tiny little pieces of bone.  In my experience these pieces can range in size from a fine powder to pieces the size of playground bark.  On average I would say cremated remains are small pieces of bone about the size of Grape Nuts.

What are Cremated Remains?

Cremated remains are not ash.  Rather they are these small pieces of bone fragments. Most people, myself included, refer to them as ash.  However, in the death care industry, the term cremated remains, or cremains, is preferred.  The cremated remains of an average-sized adult weigh about 8 pounds.

Cremated remains are considered sterile because they were exposed to such high heat. Because they are sterile, it is safe to come into contact with them.  Because of this, cremated remains are safe to scatter.  The FAA considers them to be safe to scatter from an airplane.  Once on the ground, scattered over a wide area, they would be virtually unrecognizable as cremated remains.

The small bone fragments that make up cremated remains are light and porous.  In my experience, because of this they tend to float on the air.  As they leave the airplane, they make a beautiful twist and float until the wind catches them.  I am sure some descend to the earth below, but most probably travel with the wind, at least a little.

I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any questions about cremated remains or about our services, please contact us.

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