Container not required by law for cremation
My father passed away a month ago and he wanted to be cremated. I was told that it was an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulation that his body had to be put in a box or bag before cremation. The choice was to purchase either a coffin or a box, so we purchased a cardboard box for $115, which was the cheapest option. What is the law for people who want to be cremated? Does the body have to be put in a special box or bag?
Answer: No federal or state law requires the purchase of a casket or special container for cremation, according to state and funeral industry officials.
In fact, no law even requires that a body be buried in a casket. More on that later.
To begin with, there is no OSHA requirement dealing with any kind of cremation container, said an official with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division.
Although state law does not have such a requirement, individual crematoriums may require that a body be placed in some kind of container, said Mitchell Dodo, vice president of Dodo Mortuary in Hilo and past president of the Hawaii Funeral Directors Association.
In that case, the requirements, as well as prices, will vary "from firm to firm," he said. But there's no law that says the container must be purchased from a particular funeral home.
"The family always has the right to provide their own container if they choose," Dodo said. "Many times, it may be presented that you have no choice, but really you do."
While a container may indeed be a "plain, brown cardboard box," the industry refers to any such object as a "cremation container," he said. It would be burned along with the body and is not to be confused with an urn to hold the ashes.
Dodo Mortuary has its own "in-house requirement" that a body be placed in a cremation container for cremation.
If a body is not placed in some kind of container or casket, "it's very hard to put the body into a crematory unit," Dodo explained. "For the most part, if the family doesn't want to have any service over the body, a cremation container is a good viable alternative" to purchasing a casket, he said.
Peter Oshiro, supervisor of the Plan Review and Standards Office at the state Department of Health's Sanitation Branch, also said there is no government regulation regarding cremation containers.
Furthermore, "Once a body is cremated, it's absolutely under no regulation by us or anybody as far as the disposition or transfer. ... It's not considered a body at that point" and "nothing is required after that."
That's because the ashes are not considered to pose any public health concerns.
If you feel the funeral home misrepresented information about what was required, you can file a complaint with the state Office of Consumer Protection. Call 587-3222.
It may interest you to know that there also are no restrictions regarding the scattering of ashes on land, sea (within three nautical miles) or air, with these exceptions: Ashes are not allowed to be scattered in a state forest preserve or watershed area, or on state or federal property. It is allowed on private property with the owner's permission.
If ashes are scattered, the advice is to do so discreetly and some distance away from the general public.
If you want to transport cremated remains to another island or out of the state, the Health Department suggests consulting with the mortuary about containers that are acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration.
Meanwhile, Oshiro said many mortuaries "get accused of trying to sell people things they don't need," such as requiring a casket for burial.
"But that's also not true," he said. "The whole purpose of burial is to prevent a public health nuisance, so you can literally put (a body) in anything, as long as it's buried deep enough, where animals won't dig it up and cause problems or people will smell something rotting."
A buried body could simply be placed in a bag.
The Health Department's Sanitation Branch oversees many types of businesses besides mortuaries, including barber and beauty shops, tattoo parlors and restaurants. Its main concern is the food service industry, Oshiro said.
With mortuaries, because they deal with bodies and not living people, there is no public health issue, he said. Any diseased body would have been dealt with at the hospital level before being transferred to a mortuary, while mortuary workers would be covered by occupational safety regulations.
"We are trying to get out of rules that we cover that do not have any public health significance any more," Oshiro said. "We're going to actively try to get out of it in the next coming (legislative) session."
To whoever stole the brass vase from my husband's grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl. I had read about the thefts (Kokua Line, May 9
) and then it happened to us. We discovered the vase missing on Wednesday. I want to warn people about the thefts and hope that if the vases are being taken to pawn shops, that the pawn shop owners will question where they came from. Names are engraved on the vases so it should be easy to find out who they belong to. -- No Name
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