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Re: Cremation or burial?





To the many excellent contributions on this topic, I'd like to add a couple of
points that I haven't seen mentioned.

First, cremation is a known source of dioxin emissions.  Not in the top dozen
source categories, mind you, but with a chemical as toxic as dioxin worth
knowing.

Second, when you speak of the "environmental and social issues" surrounding
cremation and burial, you are implying that the environmental issues are worth
exploring, and while they're fun and interesting, I think in this case they are
also inconsequential.  The Union of Concerned Scientists' new book ("The
Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the
Union of Concerned Scientists" by Michael Brower and Warren Leon) talks about
differentiating between issues where environmental implications SHOULD play an
important role vs. those issues that usually are environmentally neutral.  By
that I don't mean that there are no environmental consequences from each course
of action -- almost every action does have an environmental impact, after all.
In this case, both actions have environmental impacts.  Cremation -- fuel use,
air emissions, residual disposal.  Burial -- land use, potential groundwater
pollution, materials use (coffin, etc).  The "worst" environmental choice from
these two sets of implications is pretty much dependant on what your values are.
SO unless you're on a desert island that will soon be consumed by burial plots
or your only cemetery lies over your drinking water aquifer (blah!), I think
you're entitled to make your choice based on the social issues underlying body
disposal.

Oh, and I hate to be picky, but I'd point out that "harvesting" body parts
causes other, diseased or otherwise unsatisfactory parts to be disposed of in
some manner.  Along with about 50 pounds of trash from the operation.

So, except for Scott's excellent suggestion of immortality (which I personally
am going for) and the Soylent Green option, I see no way out of this, but I'm
not going to loose sleep over it, either.

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Bill Wilson, EPA Region 9 Waste Management Division
75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco CA 94105
phone 415.744.2192 fax 415.744.1044 email wilson.bill@epa.gov
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