10 Cremation Myths Debunked

The truth about common myths of cremation

Today, cremation accounts for more than half of all end-of-life dispositions. However, many myths of cremation may still confuse or frighten you. Cremation myths about costs, processes, and how cremated remains are handled may deter you from choosing this disposition method if you don’t know the truth.

To set the record straight, here are 10 common myths of cremation — and the truth behind them.

Cremation myth #1: Cremations are an “alternative” disposition method.

In the past, casket burial has been a leading choice in disposition methods. However, current funeral trends indicate that cremation is becoming mainstream as more people choose this method over burial.

According to the 2019 National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) Cremation & Burial Report nearly 55% of Americans chose cremation over burial. Cremation rates are expected to increase by 30% over the next 20 years, making it the most popular choice for disposition.

Cremation myth #2: Cremations can't be preplanned.

Another common myth of cremation is that you can’t preplan a service for it. On the contrary, preplanning cremation services can offer many emotional and financial benefits for you and your family.

Preplanning your cremation funeral service gives you the opportunity to choose how you want to be remembered and can help alleviate the financial burden of funeral costs for your loved ones.

Preneed Funeral insurance and Final Expense Whole Life insurance are two options that can help you preplan funeral arrangements, such as cremation.

  • Preneed Funeral insurance is used to fund an agreement between you and a funeral home. You decide the elements you want included in your funeral service, and the funeral director totals the cost. This is the basis for your Preneed Funeral insurance plan.
  • Final Expense Whole Life insurance can help cover the costs of your funeral service. It is also designed to help cover other final costs, such as unpaid bills or medical expenses.

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Cremation myth #3: Cremation only involves fire.

Many people believe that the cremation process only uses fire to burn the body, resulting in cremated remains, but this isn’t always the case.

Although the most common cremation process is to expose the body to intense heat, water cremation is becoming more popular than years past. Also known as green cremation or bio-cremation, water cremation is known formally as alkaline hydrolysis. The deceased is placed into a container with a mixture of 95% water and 5% alkali and heated to a temperature that causes it to break down over time. The remains are returned to the loved ones for handling and memorializing on their own.

Water cremation is considered a more environmentally friendly option because it requires less energy and cuts down on fossil fuels emitted through the process. But keep in mind, you’ll need to research whether water cremation is accessible in your region because the technology is newer and is not approved by some states.

Cremation myth #4: You can't have a funeral service if you’re cremated.

Another myth of cremation is that using this disposition method prevents you from being able to have a funeral service. In fact, you have seemingly unlimited options to preplan your funeral service in conjunction with cremation.

Many people choose to arrange for a funeral service after cremation, but you can also arrange to have a viewing and ceremony before your body is cremated. Preplanning your cremation can help ensure that your final wishes are upheld.

Cremation myth #5: It's legal to spread ashes anywhere.

While many locations are legal for you to scatter cremated remains, some are illegal. For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has federal regulations about scattering ashes at sea that prohibit individuals from scattering ashes less than three nautical miles from the shoreline. The Clean Water Act also requires people to request permits before scattering cremated remains across inland bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers.

Most national parks will allow you to scatter ashes, but they require you to complete an application and you may have to pay a small fee. To find applications for scattering your loved one’s cremated remains on federal land or learn about specific park rules, you can visit the National Park Service’s website.

On a more local level, each state also has different laws and guidelines for where you can and can’t scatter cremated remains. Researching local burial and cremation laws can be helpful.

Cremation myth #6: Cremation is always cheaper than burial.

Average cremation costs typically only consider minimum disposition costs and not any additional options. Additional items for cremation, such as an urn or cremation casket, can add up to make cremation just as expensive as some burials.

Purchasing an advance funeral plan may help protect you and your loved ones against the rising costs of funeral arrangements and save money in the long run.

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Cremation myth #7: You could get someone else’s ashes.

A commonly feared myth of cremation is that you could get someone else’s cremated remains. Funeral homes follow state cremation laws and strict guidelines to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

The majority of funeral homes are members of associations that also have strict guidelines on cremation. For example, guidelines from the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) state the following: “The crematory authority should not simultaneously cremate more than one human remains in the same cremation chamber unless it has written authorization to do so by the authorizing agent of each human remains to be cremated.”

Additionally, the cremation furnace is typically only large enough to fit one body. Since the cremation process involves the body being marked to ensure proper identification, you can rest assured that you know to whom the cremated remains belong.

Cremation myth #8: Organ donors get free cremation.

Free cremation services are only available to individuals who donate their entire body to scientific research facilities, which cover cremation costs.

Individuals who choose to donate only their organs do not typically qualify for free cremation services.

Cremation myth #9: You can’t take ashes on a plane.

The Travel Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t ban traveling with cremated remains, but it does have guidelines and restrictions. TSA suggests the following: “Purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container made of a lighter weight material, such as wood or plastic. If the container is made of a material that generates an opaque image, TSA officers will not be able to determine what is inside the container, and it will not be allowed. Out of respect for the deceased, TSA officers will not open a container.”

Some airlines also have their own set of rules for taking ashes on a plane. For example, they may ask you to provide a death certificate. Check with the airline you’re flying with beforehand.

Cremation myth #10: Human ashes are a biohazard.

A biohazard is a disease-producing agent, especially a virus, bacterium, or other microorganism, that poses a health risk if released into the environment. Cremation remains consist of bone matter, which includes dry calcium phosphates and other minerals, such as potassium and sodium. Rather than being toxic, cremated remains are considered a natural, sanitary substance

This article may contain links to third party websites, but Great Western Insurance Company is neither responsible nor liable for their content, accuracy, or security. Review our Terms and Conditions to learn more.

Photo credit: iStock

Our Funeral Expenses Calculator can help estimate your burial and end-of-life expenses and show how those costs could be affected by inflation over time. The data can help you determine whether Final Expense or Preneed Funeral insurance will meet your needs.


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