Oct. 10 - A funeral home in Florida has become the first in the world to perform a Bio-cremation, a new alternative for the disposal of dead bodies. Through Bio-cremation, the body is fully decomposed in just four hours using an accelerated chemical reaction. Ben Gruber reports.
David Cadoret is mourning the death of his father. Richard Cadoret, or Pete as he was known to family and friends, died peacefully just a few days ago. In his Will, Pete chose to be cremated. But when David went to the Anderson/McQeen funeral home, he was told he had another choice. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID CADORET, SON OF DECEASED, SAYING: "I think I was a little bit surprised to have more than one choice. I didn't realise there was a second choice and choices are good." Just this week, the funeral home became the first in the world to offer bio-cremation - a process where instead of being burned in a cremator, a body is immersed in a chemical bath and broken down by a process called Alkaline Hydrolysis. Alkaline Hydrolysis is the natural chemical reaction that takes place when a body decomposes after burial. For the past four years bio-cremation inventor, Sandy Sullivan, has been trying to speed that process up. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SANDY SULLIVAN, BIO-CREMATION INVENTOR, SAYING: "Alkaline Hydrolysis breaks down tissue and you end up with bones, ash at the end of the day. We apply it in a different way. We increase the alkalinity using a chemical called potassium hydroxide and we increase the heat because it is a chemical reaction. The more heat the faster the reaction, so we achieve what nature achieves in hours rather than months or years." Sullivan designed a machine he calls a "Resomator". He says the system automatically calculates the weight of the body and the amount of potassium hydroxide and water needed to break it down. The chamber heats up to 170 degrees celsius (370 f) and after four hours, all that's left are bone fragments. These are then processed in the same manner as traditionally cremated remains and placed in a container for the family of the deceased. The chemical solution goes down the drain like any other liquid. John McQueen, the president of the funeral home is quick to point out that the solution does not contain acid, but the same alkali used in cosmetics and soap. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN MCQUEEN, PRESIDENT OF THE ANDERSON/MCQUEEN FUNERAL HOME, SAYING: "Actually what goes into the waste water treatment system is probably cleaner than most things that go into the waste water treatment system from our house or hospitals or nursing homes or other places. The solution that is discharged into that system is a sterile based solution, so it is sterile, there is no DNA whatsoever because the process breaks down the body to the basic amino acids." Steve Schaal runs Matthews cremation, the company distributing Resomators in America. He says the machines' eco-friendly appeal will help make it a success. (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEVE SCHAAL, PRESIDENT OF MATTHEW'S CREMATION, SAYING: "What we believe is that the fact that we are reducing carbon output by 75 percent, a huge reduction in energy usage, we are just seeing this as a fantastic opportunity in which can provide our funeral clients a new environmental way that is attractive to consumers." In the end, David Cadoret chose bio-cremation. He says that while the eco-friendly sales pitch was appealing, it wasn't the main reason his family chose the new process. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID CADORET, SON OF DECEASED, SAYING: "He chose to be cremated, ok, the bottom line. There is only two options and one was just more appealing than the other. When we get his remains in the urn, not a big deal but, it's not going to scorched." David also believes this is what his father would have wanted - to be part of something new, even at the very end. Ben Gruber, Reuters.