Frequently Asked Questions About Cremation
For more information on cremation, please visit The Cremation Association of North America’s website at:
Q: What is Cremation?
A: Cremation is the process of reducing human remains to its basic elements in the form of bone fragments
through flame, heat and vaporization (usually 1800 - 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more).
Cremation occurs at a crematory in a special kind of furnace called a cremation chamber or retort. The
resulting bone fragments are further reduced in size through a mechanical process and are referred to as
"cremated remains". (It may surprise many to learn that ashes are not the final result since cremated
remains have neither the appearance nor the chemical properties of ashes.) After processing, the cremated
remains are placed in an urn or other container suitable for memorialization, transport or interment.
Depending upon the size of the deceased’s skeletal makeup, there are normally four to eight pounds of
cremated remains resulting.
Q: Is a casket required for a cremation to take place?
A: A casket is not required for a cremation to take place. In most states,
all that is required is an alternative container which can be constructed of wood or cardboard,
and is cremated along with the deceased.
Q: Is embalming required prior to cremation?
A: No. Public health law states that “any human remains held 24 hours beyond
death, and not yet cremated or interred at a cemetery, shall be either embalmed, or kept under refrigeration.”
Q: Can a cremation be witnessed by the family?
A: Yes, in most situations, the cremation provider will permit family members to be
in attendance when the body is placed into the cremation chamber. Actually, a few religious groups include
this as integral part of their funeral practice.
Q: Are there any religions that do not approve of cremation?
A: Most major religions readily accept cremation, with the exception of Islam
and Orthodox Judaism. Today, all of the Christian denominations allow cremation and are pleased for
their members who choose it. (The Catholic Church approves cremation, but advocates the interment of
the cremated remains in a cemetery.) Buddhists favor cremation, and for Hindus, cremation is the
orthodox method of disposition.
Q: Can more than one cremation be performed at once?
A: No. Not only is it a practical impossibility, but it is illegal to do so.
The majority of modern cremation chambers are not of adequate size to house more than one adult.
Q: What usually happens after the cremation is finished?
A: All organic bone fragments and all non-consumed metal items are
collected into a stainless steel cooling pan located in the lower front of the cremation
chamber. All non-consumed items, such as metal from clothing, joint replacements, and dental
bridgework, are divided from the cremated remains. This separation is accomplished through
visual inspection as well as using a strong magnet for smaller and minute metallic objects.
Items such as dental gold and silver are non-recoverable and may be commingled with the
cremated remains. Remaining bone fragments are then processed in a machine to a consistent
size, sealed in a plastic bag, and then placed into a cremated remains container selected
by the family.
Q: What do cremated remains look like?
A: Processed cremated remains are a mixture of powdery and granular
substances, and are very light gray to white in color. The remains of an average sized
adult usually weigh between four to eight pounds.
Q: Are all cremated remains returned to the family?
A: With the exclusion of minuscule and microscopic particles,
which are impossible to remove from the cremation chamber and processing machine, all
of the cremated remains are returned to the family.
Q: Are urns required to collect the cremated remains?
A: There is no law requiring an urn. Nevertheless, the cremated
remains must be held in some type of container. A more traditional urn may be desired
if the cremated remains are to be memorialized at home, at a public memorial service,
or the remains are to be interred at a cemetery. A family member may also supply a
container or containers suitable for holding the cremated remains.
Q: What options are available with the cremated remains?
A: After the cremation, the cremated remains may be returned to a
designated family member or friend to be kept at home, scattered or buried on private
property, or released to a cemetery for burial or above-ground entombment. (Philadelphia
Crematories, Inc. also offers a sea scattering service three miles off the southern New
Jersey coast.) Cremated remains are often divided to satisfy various memorialization
requests. There are smaller urns and even jewelry which hold “keepsake” portions of
cremated remains. Cremation offers infinite possibilities to memorialize a loved one.
Q: How can you be certain that all remains are kept separate, and you receive the correct remains?
A: All responsible cremation providers have thorough operating
policies and procedures in order to provide the highest level of service and reduce
the possibility of human error. If you have questions, ask the cremation provider
what procedures they use, and if you are allowed to witness all or any of the procedures
relating to the cremation, including retrieval, processing, and packaging of the cremated
remains. It is not only your right, but also your responsibility to gain a feeling of
confidence in your cremation provider's facility, employees, policies, and procedures.
Choosing your cremation provider
is one of the most critical decisions you need to make.