What is Aquamation?

What is aquamation

Throughout human history, most people have arranged funerals in two ways: cremation or burial. A new approach of sending off the dead is through aquamation.

Little is known about this method, but the anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu requested to be aquamated.

Water Aquamation is an eco-friendly alternative to cremation. It is the disposition of human and animal bodies using water rather than fire. Scientifically, aquamation or liquid aquamation is also referred to as alkaline hydrolysis.

Aquamation does not emit greenhouse gases because it does not require the burning of fossil fuels.

Rather than using fuel, this method combines water and alkaline at high temperatures to break down organic materials. This form of body disposition is similar to the natural process that occurs through burial, but it accelerates the process and reduces the need for space.

The aquamation process starts when the human body is placed on a stainless steel vessel, which is then filled with water and potassium hydroxide (alkali). The content is then subjected to high temperatures (200-320 F). During the alkaline hydrolysis, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals are reduced to basic organic components which are then dissolved into the water.

After the alkaline hydrolysis process, the resulting components include green-brown liquid and bone remains. The liquid is released as wastewater while the bones are processed into fine powder, placed in an urn, and returned to the family or next of kin for eco-friendly disposal.

Aquamation was discovered by Amos Herbery Hanson in 1888. Hanson was a farmer who processed animal carcasses into fertilizer. His discovery was picked up by scientists who started to dispose contaminated animal bodies in laboratories.

In 1993, Albany Medical College installed the first commercial aquamation machine to dispose cadavers. For many years, people continued to use aquamation in hospitals and schools.

Water aquamation has been approved for use on human remains in many parts of the world. Minnesota was the first U.S. state to legally approve aquamation in 2003.

The body of Desmond Tutu has undergone aquamation in January 2022 according to his request. Desmond Tutu died on 26th December 2021 at the age of 90. During his life, he requested for a cheap coffin and an eco-friendly cremation.

With increasing effects of climate change and reduced burial space in urban areas, liquid aquamation has become an attractive way of disposing human bodies. Furthermore, water is believed to be gentler than fire. Liquid cremation also consumes less energy and emits less greenhouse gases than the traditional cremation methods.

Aquamation is also more efficient and hygienic when used to dispose animal remains in slaughterhouses.

Written by 

B. Economics & Finance, B/ED, Writer, Educator with experience of 12 years in research and writing.

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