Resomation – alkaline hydrolysis of tissue wastes

Resomation is in the news again, if only because of a perceived ‘Yuk factor’.

Several national papers are reporting that Cambridge City Crematorium is considering trials of alternatives to cremation.

The first, a process called promession or cryomation involves using liquid nitrogen to chill the body to -196°c, leaving it so brittle that it can be ‘fragmented’ on a vibrating mat. A magnet then removes metal objects such as fillings and artificial limbs, leaving a sterile powder – giving a whole new meaning to ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’.

That seems OK, except the ashes will actually comprise deep frozen body, around 70% water, that when thawed will turn to slush. Perhaps the journalists forgot about the detail of water removal when writing their piece. If not, then the process seems to be an incomplete and inadequate.

The second process, said to be “even more disturbing” is resomation. This requires bodies to be placed in silk bags and submerged in an alkaline solution that is then heated to 160°c. Soft tissue and bone dissolve completely leaving behind a combination of green-brown fluid and white powder. Scottish firm Resomation Ltd  is in talks with British authorities about introducing the funerals here.

The Clinical Waste Discussion Forum has discussed Resomation previously, in 2008 and in 2008

Alkaline hydrolysis – a new approach with an old process

Alkaline hydrolysis of tissue wastes

We have proposed the use of Resomation as an adjunct to ATT processing of clinical wastes. Though sharps disposal remains a grey area – black and white for the regulators though scientifically the rationale behind effective prohibition is unproven – tissue waste disposal remains one of the few outstanding gaps that necessitates high temperature incineration.

Resomation might be used in the treatment and disposal of tissue wastes from mortuaries, laboratories and surgery etc, placental tissue, and for the disposal of animal carcasses from veterinary clinics, laboratories, road kills etc. Sitting alongside a licensed ATT facility this might deliver a comprehensive tissue waste disposal service, safe and hygienic, and properly regulated, from the point of collection through transport and treatment, in local licensed clinical waste facilities rather than the more costly and potentially energy rich and carbon inefficient regional incinerator facilities that are so unpopular to communities.

Remember, you heard it first in the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum!

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