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Surprising Impact of Obesity on the Cremation Process That Everyone Should Know

The obesity epidemic in America is now impacting cremation practices. Take a look at how obesity affects cremation from the timeline to the end cost.
Obesity and Cremation: What You Need to Know
Obesity and Cremation: What You Need to Know

Table of Contents

Today, almost one out of every ten Americans is either morbidly obese or on the brink of it. Obesity is a modern-day epidemic with far-reaching consequences, impacting various sectors of life. One of the less-discussed effects of this condition is its influence on the cremation process.

Today, we’re delving into how obesity affects cremation, offering personal insights into the adaptations and challenges that we funeral directors face in an effort to safely provide cremation services for the obese. Because at Cremation.Green, we believe everyone deserves to have the death care services they want even if it’s more challenging for us.

The Challenges of Cremating the Morbidly Obese

You can cremate someone who is morbidly obese, meaning they have a BMI of 40+ and are at least 80-100 pounds over their ideal weight, but it isn’t simple. The service is known as bariatric cremation, and not all funeral homes are equipped to perform the service. 

Cremating an obese person is not as straightforward a process as standard cremation. Everything about cremation is designed around an average body size, which may not suffice when it comes to managing the cremation of a morbidly obese individual. The significant increase in body mass and fat content substantially changes the safety requirements and procedures that have to be taken. 

Is There a Weight Limit for Cremation?

Obesity doesn’t have an exact weight limit, but crematorium equipment does. Weight limit considerations are a part of the reality faced by crematories, with most facilities equipped to handle bodies only up to 500 pounds due to cremation chamber dimensions and heat requirements. When it comes to individuals exceeding this weight limit, many crematories simply aren’t set up to safely provide services.

Crematoriums must provide attentive care and adjust their practices accordingly to ensure that the cremation of morbidly obese individuals is performed without compromising the integrity of their equipment, the safety of workers or regulatory compliance that’s required because of the risks involved.

The Risks of Cremating the Obese

Cremating an obese individual involves factors that pose significant safety challenges for crematories. Each aspect of the process requires meticulous consideration to avoid potential risks that can be deadly. 

The biggest concern is the increased risk of a fire due to the combustibility of fat tissue, in particular grease fires. This phenomenon, while uncommon, can occur when excessive body fat fuels an intense fire within a crematorium’s chamber. It not only poses serious safety hazards for crematorium staff but can lead to significant damage to the facility.

Other factors that increase the risk include:

  • The larger body mass necessitates more energy and an extended duration for cremation.
  • Because of the longer duration, equipment damage and overheating is more likely. 
  • The high fat content raises temperatures to levels that can harm cremation chambers, calling for increased maintenance.
  • The cremation of heavier individuals increases the risk of excessive smoke and emissions which could have health and environmental repercussions. Regulations must be strictly followed to control emissions and ensure environmental safety. 

Adhering to current safety regulations and careful cremation protocols are critical for managing these risks effectively using standard equipment. It highlights the urgent need for adaptations in cremation practices for the obese to address the growing obesity trend. 

The Time It Takes to Cremate an Obese Person

Obesity can directly influence the cremation timeline, largely due to the increased body mass and higher fat content associated with these cases. In general, a bariatric cremation is going to take longer than conventional cremation for a few reasons.

Fat Tissue Burns Slower

Fat tissues burn slower than lean tissues, necessitating adjustments in temperature and duration.

Safety Concerns

Preventing a fire requires careful control and monitoring throughout the entirety of the process.The retort also needs to be completely cooled down before the process gets underway.

Longer Cooling Period

Cremating a larger body demands an extended cooling phase before the ashes can be processed.

Crematoriums must consider these time factors to manage the family’s expectations and ensure the procedure is handled as proficiently as possible.

How Much More Will a Bariatric Cremation Cost?

When there’s more risk, a longer amount of time needed and special accommodations have to be made, cremation costs are going to go up. How much more depends on the funeral home you select, but it’s sure to come at an increased cost for the following reasons:

More Time is Needed in the Retort – The time it takes for a cremation is going to determine how many cremations a funeral home can perform in a day. For that reason alone, bariatric cremations cost more.

More Expensive Specialized Equipment – Facilities that have invested in specialized equipment to handle heavier individuals may impose extra fees for the increased operating costs, which can influence the general pricing structure.

More Energy is Consumed – Since bariatric cremation takes longer, more energy is used. The additional fuel and resources are an expense that’s factored into the price.

More Staff With Special Training – Properly managing the cremation of an oversized body may necessitate more manpower, and the staff needs special training to ensure all safety protocols are followed.

The costs associated with an oversized cremation reflect the extensive requirements and adjustments that are needed to accommodate larger individuals. Understanding these cost factors is essential for families during the planning of a cremation service, exemplifying why specific scenarios require higher fees.

Treating Everyone With Dignity in Death

The prevalence of obesity in America is a serious problem that isn’t going away anytime soon. The delicate subject of how obesity affects cremation reflects a broader societal issue that extends into the realms of mortality and final rites. As the funeral service industry evolves to address these challenges, it prompts a bigger conversation about dignity, respect and accommodations in death as in life. 

The trends and adaptations we’ve discussed are not only technical solutions to a logistical problem but represent a deeper commitment to honoring the final journey of every individual, regardless of their size. It’s a belief that’s reinforced by our fundamental philosophy that everyone has the right to choose their disposition. The funeral service industry should serve all families with equal compassion and respect their wishes.

At Cremation.Green we do everything we can do to accommodate the families we serve, and we’re proud to be thought leaders that are focused on innovating the funeral industry to better serve people today. If you’d like to know more about our eco-friendly cremation services and any special needs you may have, please call or text us at your convenience. 

Picture of Marlaena Gonzales

Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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