Virginia Wants to Ban Alkaline Hydrolysis? -2012

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1/22/2012—Someone in the state of Virginia has a case of the "ickies." If not we can't imagine why the state legislature is considering a bill to ban alkaline hydrolyis.  Alkaline hydrolysis is the process of dissolving the body into an inert liquid using a bath of water and potassium hydroxide—basically it's dissolving the body in lye. What's left is a sterile liquid and fine bone fragments (these can be given back to the family in powdered form as is done with cremated remains). Ewww. . .that's horrific, right? Not really. What we Americans

find "dignified" or "horrible" when it comes to body disposal isn't based on any universal notion of "proper" burial. We tend to find the things we're used to "dignified" and those we're not used to "undignified." People had the same reaction to cremation (and think about it---what's nicer about burning a body in a 1600 degree oven?) when it was introduced in the 1870s. 

Whatever the motivation behind HB 379, it serves no good public policy purpose. Consumers should be able to select the form of disposition that appeals to them so long as the process poses no danger to the public. As Isabel Berney of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Virginia Blue Ridge wrote, 

Dear members of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee:

Please kill HB379.

There are many reasons why alkaline hydrolysis should be permitted. It is more environmentally friendly than cremation. It is allowed now in three states for human remains and in many more states by schools of veterinary medicine to dispose of large animals. It takes less energy than cremation, its end product is sterile and can be treated by a standard water treatment system.

This is often opposed by the funeral home industry just as that industry opposed cremation. Now that cremation is widely accepted, funeral homes are seeing a decrease in conventional funerals and their profits. It is important for consumers to have a choice. It is important to support alternatives that leave a smaller carbon footprint. It is important for you to consider the wishes of many ordinary citizens who would appreciate the choice of a lower cost, better alternative than what now exists. Our organization is one of four such groups in Virginia. We have more than 260 members in southwest Virginia – from Abingdon to Lynchburg. We are advocates for the consumer; this bill does not serve their needs.

Please vote against HB379.

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 January 2012 20:10 )  
Comments (2)
1 Monday, 23 January 2012 18:35
Joe Wilson

I have been involved in the development of an commercialization of nearly 100 Alkaline Hydrolysis systems in the U.S.  These have largely replaced incinerators in animal diagnostics centers nationwide.  AH is used by most states for diseased animal disposal and is used in some states for human cadaver and human body dispositions.  It is 1/10 the carbon footprint of cremation, 1/20 the carbon footprint of burial, and is safer than both combined.  The end product is sterile, free from DNA/RNA and is actually beneficial to the aerobic wastewater treatment process from a nutrients / micronutrients viewpoint.  Drugs such as cytotoxic drugs used to treat cancer and are carcinogenic and cell toxic, embalming fluids which are carcinogens, all biological toxins, and most chemical toxins, are completely labile to the alkali and amines produced in the alkaline hydrolysis process.  The NIH uses this technology as does the USDA and U.S. military as a safe way to dispose of highly contaminated materials from high level bioresearch facilities.  Why would a bill be presented to destroy this wonderful addition to the options people have for final disposition?  The only thing I can think of is ignorance.  However if proof is needed as to the process and its safety, we have a myriad of documents to offer toward this cause. is our site and our contact information is on the site.  Thank you.

2 Tuesday, 06 March 2012 12:29
Barb Wyman

Alkaline Hydrolysis is the process of dissolving the soft tissue of a human body into a liquid form through heat, pressure and chemicals. This “effluent” is drained into the sanitary sewer, and the bones are returned to the family as with cremation by fire.

There are a number of issues with this “Greener” technology which can save money in funeral services if the funeral home chooses to.

The body is placed in a pressure vessel with chemicals and water, then heat (about 300 degrees) and pressure (25 to 65 pounds per square inch depending on the type of unit) are applied until the body is liquefied. The body is literally cooked down in a pressure cooker to a soupy mixture. The proponents of BioCremation or EcoCremation state that this has a smaller “Carbon Footprint”. There is no documentation from an independent laboratory to prove this. It takes energy to produce water and heat matter up to 300 degrees and sustain it for hours. It takes considerable energy to manufacture the machines.

Sanitary sewers are a series of underground pipes which drain the wastewater from our houses, businesses and manufacturing facilities. Part of your loved one’s body will be flushed into the same pipes which carry your human waste. Is this a dignified final resting place?

There is a disease in humans which is similar to Mad Cow Disease or Chronic Wasting Disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. CJD belongs to a family of human and animal diseases known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).

The leading scientific theory at this time maintains that CJD and the other TSEs are caused by a type of protein called a prion.

Prion proteins occur in both a normal form, which is a harmless protein found in the body’s cells, and in an infectious form, which causes disease. Once they appear, abnormal prion proteins aggregate, or clump together. Investigators think these protein aggregates may lead to the neuron loss and other brain damage seen in CJD. However, they do not know exactly how this damage occurs. There is no ante mortem test which conclusively diagnoses CJD and no cure. It is always fatal. The problem with prions is in the disposal of the infected tissues. There is NO conclusive proof that prions can be completely destroyed except by intense heat as in cremation by fire.

Most of our wastewater is treated at a sewage disposal plant and then the liquid is returned to a body of water or into the ground. Solid waste sludge is applied to farmer’s fields. The prions continue to live and re-infect.

Please do your research. Not all “green” technology saves money and betters our environment.

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