End of Life Care Industry

Fuzzy Math from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recently released: “Pollution Prevention Crematoria Project Final Report.” It’s a 39 page report worth reading in it’s entirely, if for no other reason to see if you too can spot all of the absurdities.

The CDPHE identified the crematoriums in the State of Colorado as a source of mercury pollution in the air. The culprit? Amalgam fillings that were widely used in dentistry . As the baby-boomers are dying their teeth are being cremated with them causing the release of the toxins to go into the air in Colorado, and blow into Kansas. The solution? A steering committee of funeral service professionals in Colorado would begin the task of working with the State to determine solutions to the problem. I was on the committee with many well respected funeral directors and funeral home owners in Colorado. The final player who needs to be introduced is Tetra Tech, they are the outside environmental firm the State hired for this project.

The State claims that 110 pounds of mercury are released per year from all of the Colorado crematoriums combined. Why that’s false; In a 2003 report prepared by ERG, Inc. for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the amount of mercury emitted by all known crematories in the U.S. and Canada was 333 lbs./year. How could the State of Colorado possibly emit one-third of the entire mercury emissions in all of the United States and Canada? The total number of deaths annually in Colorado is still under 30,000 as compared to Florida for example, at over 260,000 deaths annually.

The data provided by Tetra Tech and the State compared apples to oranges. The amount of research done and references cited in European countries are woven throughout the report, Great Britain, Norway, etc.. The truth is there has only been 1 (one) known study in the United States of crematory mercury emissions. Why only one you ask? After the analysis of the Woodlawn Cemetery crematory in New York, the U.S. EPA got the information they needed; all of the crematories in the United States make up less than 1% of the total mercury emissions in the country. Have there been alarming data collected, one can be certain the U.S. EPA would have looked for financial resources to fund further studies.

There are several conclusions to be made based upon the State’s published report and this topic in general:

• The limited information is inconsistent and possibly inaccurate on the topic of mercury emissions from crematoria.

• If in the future the U.S. EPA moves forward with any formal regulation the National Funeral Directors Association will represent the funeral industry as the stakeholders at the national level.

• No state in the country has yet to set precedence on this issue.

• In an email dated December 5, 2005, Mary Johnson, Environmental Engineer, U.S. EPA wrote, “At this time, EPA has no plans underway to regulate human or animal crematories.”

• A discussion with Jack Springer, President of the Cremation Association of North America stated that the scrubbers/washers to remove the mercury from the crematories in Europe have been paid for by the taxpayers, and not private business. As the cost of the scrubbers begin at $100,000 and go up, the regulation of that would no doubt put many crematoriums in the United States out of business.