Crematory FAQ

Why do people choose cremation over a traditional burial?
There are many reasons why people choose cremation. Among the most common are environmental considerations, philosophical reasons, cost, and because they feel it is less complicated for their families. Whatever the reason, choosing cremation is a very personal decision and one that should be made after considering all the options.

If I choose cremation, can my family still have a funeral service?
The choice of cremation does not limit the type of funeral arrangements you may make. Many people plan a traditional visitation and funeral service prior to the cremation while others decide on a simple memorial service to be held either before or after the cremation. Whatever your decision, it should be the one that is right for you.

Is a casket necessary?
If a funeral service is planned, either a traditional casket or a cremation casket may be chosen. Cremation caskets are simpler in design and are typically less expensive because they are made with different materials.

Will an urn be needed?
Following cremation, an urn or temporary container is used to protect the cremated remains. Cremation urns are available in a wide variety of materials and price ranges. Temporary containers are designed to hold the remains only until final disposition and are made of less permanent materials.

What happens after the cremation?
The cremated remains will be placed in an urn or temporary container. The remains are then given to the designated family member or other designated person for final disposition.

Does a crematory emit smoke or odors?
Today’s state-of-the-art crematories are clean and very efficient. The two-chamber system eliminates emissions such as smoke or odors; only heat is emitted. The crematory building at Gentry-Griffey Funeral Chapel has no chimney or other evident external appearance that a crematory is present. It is very aesthetically pleasing and complementary to the beautiful grounds surrounding our Fountain City funeral home.

What are the primary potential environmental concerns associated with crematories?
For years, the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) has witnessed the concern surrounding cremating human remains and the corresponding release of primarily two emissions: particulate matter (PM) and mercury (Hg).

What is particulate matter?
Particulate matter (PM) can be defined as solid particles suspended in a gas as a byproduct of all combustion processes, including cremations.

How is particulate matter released into the environment, and is it regulated?
Particulate matter (PM) is released into the environment in many ways, including through residential and commercial fuel-based heating – through cars, trucks, restaurant grills, and fireplaces. None of these common community sources of PM have any emission controls to reduce, monitor, or limit PM emissions. Crematories, however, have emission controls as part of their design to limit the amount of PM entering the atmosphere.

How are mercury emissions released into the air?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), there are many ways mercury emissions are released into the air. Some of these common sources include municipal incinerators, the breaking of used fluorescent tube lamps, dental facilities, production and disposal of batteries, household trash disposal, and residential heating, along with the operation of crematories.

What are the levels of mercury released by crematories?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) lists the operation of crematories as one of the lowest sources of mercury emissions. In fact, the USEPA states that crematories statistically represent zero (0) percent of the total inventory for national mercury emission rates, according to their Best Point Estimates.

Are crematories under federal regulation regarding mercury emissions?
Under the Clean Air Act, the USEPA reviewed and updated national air-quality standards for all types of possible pollutant sources, including crematories. This review considered all possible pollutants, including particulate matter and mercury. As a result, crematories were not considered for any further federal regulation. Based on significant and unbiased testing, mercury emissions from crematories were not deemed sufficient to be regulated.

Where does the mercury associated with cremations come from?
It is derived from the use of silver amalgam in dental fillings that is released into the environment during the cremation process. The American Dental Association (ADA), which oversees and regulates dentists in the United States, reports that since 1990 the use of silver amalgam has dropped from a 68-percent usage rate to 30 percent. The ADA attributes this decrease to the patients’ preferences for natural-looking non metallic dental fillings. Moreover, continuous changes in dental practices, as the durability of other cavity-filling materials are proven, continues to lessen the already minimal amounts of mercury being released.

Is there regulation of crematories at the state and/or local level?
Yes, crematories are heavily regulated and compliance and permitting are done by the state, county, or city depending on which has the most stringent rules. Oversight at the State of Tennessee level is conducted by the Tennessee Association of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. Unannounced inspections occur at least once annually, with very stringent assessment criteria. At the local level, the Knox County Department of Air Quality Management oversees the operation of crematories.