Crematorium

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Site where bodies are cremated at high temperature. Crematorium furnaces operate at temperatures of between 870-980°C.

Orthopaedic metal prosthesis will survive cremation as the melting point of iron is about 1200-1400°C. The melting point of soda-lime glass is about 1000°C but has a 'transition' phase at around 500°C.

The significance of this is that glass will melt, but not burn at cremation. Following post mortem examination, next of kin can state that they want all material reunited with the body. This includes wax-embedded tissue blocks and glass slides with tiny amounts of tissue. Glass slides cannot be returned into the body as it will melt and coat the furnace equipment. To get round this, some departments go as far scraping the tissue off the slides, but a more pragmatic solution is to put the glass slides in an urn or container along side the body, which can be interpreted as 'reuniting' the removed tissue with the body. A label 'Glass - do not cremate' may be sensible.

Metal prostheses need to be removed from the ash before it is mechanically broken up, or damage to the equipment may ensue - hence the interest in prostheses in cremation certification and the new model death certificate expected in 2013. A variety of femoral nail filled with saline under very high pressure to inflate it and secure it against the bone may be seriously dangerous if cremated, and would have to be removed.

Alternative systems of dissolution of a body, using hot alkali or freeze-drying and pulverising, have been proposed and may enter more general use. In the UK laws relating to cremation dating from 1904 are specific enough that further legislation would be required.

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