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The Effect of State Funeral Regulations on Cremation Rates

A human, during his/her lifetime leaves permanent footprints on the environment of the Earth, but a visit to the cemetery and a funeral home shows an individual the reality of how much permanent damage is done to the environment even after the death of a person. Usually, when a person passes his body is handed over to a funeral undertaker. The body is then bathed, disinfected and embalming fluid is pumped by way of artificial means into the veins of the dead body. The body is then done up with clothes and make-up supplied by the family and laid in the casket where the religious funeral works takes place. The casket is then sealed, taken to a cemetery and subsequently buried. The Jewish traditions use plain caskets made out of wood and people who cannot afford the cost of a casket prefer to cremate the body instead of bury it.

The subsequent environmental degradations that are felt are:

  • When the chemicals that are pumped into the body disintegrate into the soil and ultimate seep down to get mixed with the ground water. (Harrington, 2007)
  • Crematories need a huge amount of work, fertilizers and water to preserve the clean and green look of the place.
  • A space crunch has always been an issue with the rising population. Empty space is used to build residential houses. The recent increased deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic heightened the issue to such a level that the US government had to make provisions to bury bodies at different levels of the ground as there was a space crunch and individual land space could not be given to each body. (Van Overmeire & Bilsen, 2020)
  • Caskets are made out of wood so that decomposition is able to set in on the casket as well as the body. Trees are cut down to build the caskets

According to the traditional followed by the Hindus, the bodies are burnt after the death of an individual. This ritual requires logs of wood to be put on the funeral pyre- results in deforestation, and the burning of wood along with the body increases the levels of carbon dioxide in the environment. With the advance in technology, automated burning machines are now used, which filter the amount of pollutants released into the air.

The Death Care Industry, also known as the Funeral Home Industry is facing a variety of issues and yet, there is expected to be a growth in the industry due to the ever-increasing population is resulting in increased number of deaths and there is scope in the market for competition. (Lensing, 2001) Each State has a different set of regulations to be followed by the funeral homes. Some require the homes to have separate rooms for the embalming the bodies. This adds to the cost of a burial and more people tend to opt for cremation which adds on to the environment degradation. (Harrington, 2003) Whereas, some states restrict the same company from owning the funeral home as well as a cemetery. (Derogongan, Agosto & Bariñan, 2019) Any individual, who has practical knowledge about the industry and holds a pot in the Government shall be able to come up with regulations that may decrease environmental impact due to procedures followed by the homes and shall also be able to put a halt to the ways in which the families of the dead are exploited by the sale of unnecessary products and high-priced items. (Harrington & Krynski, 2002)

The work of burying the dead has become a profession and due to the vulnerability of the family members, who have recently lost a loved one, a high standard of ethics has to maintained all throughout the process. A separate course is available now-a-days which train the members of a Funeral Home on the manner in which they should behave and deal with the family.

References for Cemetery and Funeral Home Visits

Lensing, V. (2001). Grief support: The role of funeral service. Journal of Loss &Trauma6(1), 45-63.

Harrington, D. E. (2007). Markets: Preserving funeral markets with ready-to-embalm laws. Journal of Economic Perspectives21(4), 201-216.

Harrington, D. E. (2003). Breathing life into the funeral market. Regulation26, 14.

Harrington, D. E., & Krynski, K. J. (2002). The effect of state funeral regulations on cremation rates: Testing for demand inducement in funeral markets. The Journal of Law and Economics45(1), 199-225.

Van Overmeire, R., & Bilsen, J. (2020). COVID-19: the risks for funeral directors. Journal of Public Health42(3), 655-655.

Derogongan, R., Agosto, A., & Bariñan, R. (2019, October). Funeraria and Modern Funeral Homes: Change, Modernity and Sustainability. In Third International Conference on Sustainable Innovation 2019–Humanity, Education and Social Sciences (IcoSIHESS 2019). Atlantis Press.

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