Dissolving dead bodies in chemicals could soon become a common cremation alternative at funeral homes in Georgia.
The state’s Senate voted 35-10 on Monday, Feb. 3 to approve Senate Bill 296, sending it to the House for more action.
Although the process of alkaline hydrolysis is not illegal in Georgia, most funeral homes in the state don’t use it. Under current law, funeral homes must own a large cremation furnace to be licensed by the state to provide alkaline hydrolysis.
The bill would eliminate this requirement.
State Sen. Bill Heath, a Bremen Republican, said paving the way for alkaline hydrolysis was unintentionally omitted from an earlier overhaul of funeral service laws, according to The Associated Press.
The Cremation Association of North America describes alkaline hydrolysis as the process of accelerating natural decomposition by using water, alkaline chemicals, heat and sometimes pressure and agitation.The association’s website shows that only 20 states have legalized the use of alkaline hydrolysis in funeral homes.
Jim Watkins, funeral director at Little-Davenport Funeral Home in Gainesville, said he hasn’t considered this type of cremation because “it’s an expensive piece of equipment and takes a long time.” He said these two factors, in addition to the state’s requirements, have deterred many funeral homes in Georgia from offering this service. Currently no funeral homes in Hall County provide this cremation alternative.
Normal flame cremation takes around two-and-a-half to three hours. According to the Cremation Association of North America, alkaline hydrolysis can take three to 16 hours, depending on the equipment and body mass.
“Right now it’s just the cost outweighing the benefits,” Watkins said.
Alex Matthews, funeral director and embalmer at Memorial Park Funeral Home in Gainesville, said he anticipates alkaline hydrolysis becoming more popular in the coming years because it gives off zero smoke emissions.
“It’s a new greener solution,” Matthews said. “We’re thinking it will be pushed more at funeral homes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.