What Are Human Ashes Made Of?
To understand the nature of human ashes from a cremations, we must first understand what cremation is all about. Hundreds of years back, the deceased would be burned over an exposed funeral pyre made from food. Today, deceased humans are burned using high-powered furnaces. These are called cremators and found in crematories.
The cremators are fuelled by using either gas or propane creating a fire which can reach temperatures of between1500-1900°F. This searing heat requires floors to be made of special masonry materials to be able to withstand such high temperatures. Cremation attendants monitor the entire process. Human ashes are all that survive the cremation.
All that is Left is Bone Fragments
The body of a human being consists of primarily of bone, water and carbon. The high temperatures from the furnaces vaporize and oxidize all this organic matter, and all the water is evaporated. Carbon and sulfuric gases as well as water vapours will be released through the exhaust systems of the furnaces. What is left consists of bone fragments.
The time taken for a body to be completely burned will depend on the heat intensity used in the furnace as well as the size of the body but generally it can take around 2 hours. Later, the fragments of bone will pass through a special machine that will crush them leaving what we have come to know as the human ashes.
What are Human Ashes?
The pale to dark grey powder which results from the fragmented bones will weigh usually between 4 to 6 pounds. Going through the cremation process, all organic and carbon matter is destroyed and there are no bodily fluids left. Because none of this organic matter remains after cremation, there is no health hazard to the environment.
There could be some small traces of materials left behind that were in the body before cremation, like implants, or fillings, coffin fittings, etc. but often these are detected and removed when the ashes go through the magnetic field. It is usually the bone and sometimes small amounts of minerals and salts that are in the human ashes.
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
No two samples of human ashes will be the same for any two individuals when it comes down to the elemental composition. It is because there are also environmental factors that could have influenced absorption.
Take for example very industrialized areas with their acid rain and low PH levels in the water which gets ingested by humans. These trace elements get absorbed into the skeletal system; to later be present in that particular person’s cremated ashes. Diet is another factor. Those who eat a vegetarian diet might have more strontium in their ashes. There are some metals that humans need to ingest for survival.
It is evident therefore that all cremation ashes will be unique in what they contain. This uniqueness will have a special place for you and your family as it identifies them and how they lived their life over their lifetime. These factors will leave a footprint on the skeleton that makes them unique from someone else.
A famous verse which says ‘Ashes to ashes and dust to dust’, is often what we hear at a memorial service and which is a very true and fundamental message. We arise from the dust and to the dust we must eventually return. But it helps to lessen the harsh reality of death and helps us understand the circle of life, giving us peace of mind.
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