Friday, December 20, 2013

What Do Crematoriums Contribute to Urban Air Pollution?

Toxic Emissions from Crematories: A Review(7 page pdf, Montse Mari, José L. Domingo, Environment International, Oct. 12, 2009)

Also discussed here: Incineration - EMEP/EEA Emission Inventory Guidebook(13 page pdf, Marc Deslauriers, David R. Niemi and Mike Woodfield, 2009)

Today we review the literature on emissions from incineration of human bodies which is the way almost all bodies are disposed of in Japan and China and have increased to around 37% in the USA and Europe today and increasing about 10% per decade. Very few analyses of emissions from crematoriums are available but there are concerns about the amount of mercury from tooth fillings that end up in the air. The paper concludes that unless mercury emissions from crematories are properly controlled, these facilities -which number over 1,000 in Europe alone - could become an important source of air pollution.
Key Quotes:

“there are more than 1000 crematories in Europe (United Kingdom: 250, France: 125, Spain: 132, Sweden: 68, etc) being the percentage of cremations approximately 37%.. In 2006, the total number of cremations in Europe was more than 1,500,000.. the countries with the highest number of crematories are China and Japan, with 1549 and 1500, respectively.. In the USA, the cremation ratio also increased significantly from 15.2% in 1987 to 25.0% in 2000, and was expected to reach 37.0% in 2010”

“The major emissions from crematories are nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, hydrogen fluoride (HF), hydrogen chloride (HCl), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), other heavy metals, and some POPs. The emission rates depend on the design of the crematory, combustion temperature, gas retention time, duct design, duct temperature and any control devices.”

“as the concentrations of mercury may be considerable in human bodies due to the use of dental amalgamfillings, special attention should be paid to this toxic metal.”

“Although human cremation is an increasing practice, the number of studies regarding the potential risks derived from crematory emissions is very scarce in relation to the most dangerous compounds (PCDD/Fs and mercury), being even non-existent for other compounds such as NOx, CO, SO2, PAHs, etc.”

“mercury contamination by cremation comprised 0.61–1.53% of the total mercury contamination produced by all waste incineration methods in that country.[Switzerland])"

“There is a very high uncertainty in the emission factors from cremation, which is affected by:
  • the high variability in the operating temperatures;
  • the residence time in the secondary combustion chamber;
  • the fuels used (fuel oils in Sweden, natural gas in North America).”
“In recent decades, serious efforts have been made in most developed countries in order to reduce the levels of environmental mercury. In this sense, if mercury emissions from crematories are not properly controlled, these facilities could mean a relatively important source of atmospheric pollution.”
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