Public Health impact of Crematoria
There are no legal requirements for emission control for crematoria in British Columbia.
This is in contrast with other jurisdictions were regulators often require strict temperature control and temperature recording at various locations. Some countries require continuous monitoring and have emission limits for specific pollutants and for parameters that indicate the completeness of combustion.
Crematoria are licensed to operate under the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act (CIFSA). The agency overseeing the implementation of the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act is the BPCPA (Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia).
Some shortcomings of the act are that there are no legal requirements for emission control, for monitoring, and for recordkeeping of maintenance activities to keep the unit operating at an optimal level to protect public health.
The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA) provides on there website a crematorium operator application checklist. http://www.bpcpa.ca/Docs/cf_crematoria_application_guidelines.pdf (last updated Nov 2005, accessed Dec 2005). Some excerpts:
The number of cremations is increasing in BC, as in the rest of North America.
Estimates of average mercury release per cremation of a human body vary considerably:
In Canada, amalgam continues to be used for tooth restorations due to its durability and low cost. The use of amalgam for new fillings in dentist office is declining and may eventually even become phased out. Maybe this problem resolves itself spontaneously in the future. In the immediate future though emissions from mercury will probably increase since there is an increase in the number of cremations and more people retain their heavily restored teeth into old age.
· Mercury has been found to be significantly elevated in the hair of crematorium workers especially in administrators who work in closed environment with limited air ventilation. Of the 97 crematoria workers, 3% had concentrations higher than 6 ppm which is considered as the maximum tolerable level. Mean mercury concentrations were 1.96 ppm for administrative personnel and 1.47 ppm for ground personnel compared to 0.97 ppm for controls. The number of amalgam fillings was taken into consideration. A limiting factor of the study is that there is no information on possible diet exposure to mercury. The authors argue that fish is only a minor part in the diet in the UK. The authors conclude that this study contributes to the evidence that emission monitoring and control is warranted. 
Dioxins and furans:
Since cremation is a combustion process of organic matter dioxin and furans may be formed during the process due to incomplete combustion or new formation in the stack induced by high temperatures.
In the USA the emission of dioxins and furans measured at a crematorium with new technology was 0.5 µg TEQ per cremated body.
European test data found higher values: 4.9 µg TEQ per body at two Dutch crematoria and 7080 µg TEQ in a British crematorium with older technology. Reviewers of the EPA dioxin emission inventory report recommend to use the Dutch Data as reference.
A Japanese study, Takeda et al (2001) found an average of 3.9 µg and a median of 1.8 µg TEQ/body with a maximum of 24 µg TEQ/ body. The operational condition of the crematorium, mainly the temperature control, influenced to a large extent the emission of dioxins and furans. Takeda found in a study in Japan 1998 measurements ranging from 9.9pg to 6500 pg TEQ/m3 and in a second study in 2001 measurements between 64 pg TEQ/m3 and 24000 pg TEQ/m 3. 
The authors concluded that it is necessary to take measures immediately to reduce emissions given the high volume of cremations.
A recent stack test conducted by Environment Canada at a crematorium located in Mainland, Ontario detected a dioxins and furans concentration of 227 picograms ITEQ/m3 resulting in an estimated annual emission rate of .079 milligrams/year. Higher individual test run results have been noted in testing performed by a commercial source testing firm on a similar new facility in Windsor, Ontario.
Canada-wide standards have been developed for waste incineration, burning salt laden wood in coastal pulp and paper boilers, iron sintering, electric arc furnace steel manufacturing, and conical municipal waste combustion, crematoria are exempt.
Particulate matter and greenhouse gases.
Particulate matter produced by crematoria may impact the air quality level.
The production of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxides and nitrogen oxides is another factor to consider. The required energy, mostly from natural gas, electricity or propane, for the combustion of human remains is considerable. Cremation generally takes 2-3 hours in a sealed chamber, during which the temperature ranges between 760 1149 0C.
In Sweden a liquid nitrogen freeze-dry process is under investigation as alternative for cremation. Another innovative idea in Sweden is the recuperation of heat generated in some crematoria. For example water used to cool exhaust gases to prevent the formation of dioxins and furans, contributes to the warming of municipal heating system.
Conclusion and recommendations:
Resident Community Medicine UBC
The Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act. May 2004. http://www.qp.gov.bc.ca/statreg/stat/C/04035_01.htm [accessed Jan 2006]
 Cremation association of North America. Environmental/Safety Issues:Emissions Tests Provide Positive Results for Cremation Industry. http://www.cremationassociation.org/html/environment.html
 The environmental Protection Office of Toronto Public Health Monica Campbell. Towards Healthy Public Policy: Assessing and mitigating Health Burden from Air. May 2005.
 Appeal to the Environmental Appeal Board under section 44 of the Waste Management Act APPEAL NO. 98-WAS-03 http://www.eab.gov.bc.ca/waste/98was03a.htm.
 Mukherjee AB, Melanen M, Ekqvist M, Verta M. 2000. Assessment of atmospheric mercury emissions in Finland. The science of the total environment. 259:73-83.
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 John Reindl. Mercury Emissions from Crematoria. Great Lakes Binational Toxic Strategy
December 6, 2005.
 Environmental Regulations & Best Management Practices - Dental Operations in the Capital Regional District. http://www.crd.bc.ca/es/environmental_programs/source_control/documents/bestpractices_dental.pdf
Canada-wide Standard (CWS) on Mercury for Dental Amalgam Waste. http://www.ccme.ca/assets/pdf/cws_merc_amalgam_e.pdf [accessed Jan 2006]
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 Statistics from the Cremation Association of North America. http://www.cremationassociation.org/html/statistics.html [accessed Jan 2006]
 OSPAR Recommendation 2003/4 on Controlling the Dispersal of Mercury from Crematoria. http://www.ospar.org/measures/recommendations/or03-04e.doc [accessed Jan 2006]
 Maloney Sr, Phillips CA, Mills A. 1998. Mercury in the hair of crematoria workers. Lancet 352 (9140):1602.
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 EPA dioxin peer review: August 7, 1998.
http://www.epa.gov/NCEA/pdfs/dioxin/dioxinpr.pdf. [accessed Jan 2006]
 Takeda N, Takaoka M, Fujiwara T, Takeyama H, Eguchi S. 2001. Measures to prevent emissions of PCDDS/DFs and co-planar PCBs from crematories in japan. Chemosphere.;43:763-771.
 CCME Dioxins and Furans CWS Development Committee. Status of activities related to dioxins and furans Canada wide standards. October 2004. http://www.ccme.ca/assets/pdf/d_f_2004_sector_status_rpt_e.pdf [accessed on Jan 4 2006.