Bill allowing bodies to be dissolved in chemicals passes GA Senate

State Capitol
State Capitol

Legislation letting funeral homes without crematory furnaces dissolve bodies in a chemical solution passed the Senate Monday.

Senate Bill 296, sponsored by Sen. Bill Heath, would change the wording of a law governing cremation to make clear that the use of a process called Alkaline Hydrosis, or "aquamation" is legal.

The process uses a mixture of sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide with warm water to dissolve the body, and leave objects like artificial joints behind. The chemicals are strong bases, and are used in food processing and as a drain cleaner.

Under current law, aquamation is not illegal, but funeral homes have to own a large industrial furnace in order to be licensed to cremate bodies. The change would eliminate that requirement for funeral homes that use the process.

“Essentially all SB 296 does is straighten out a law we didn’t complete in 2012,” said Heath, R-Bremen.

After the body is dissolved in the solution, the leftover water is disposed of in the waste water system, and the bones are pulverized into ashes and preserved. Sen. Zahra Karinshak, D-Duluth, expressed concern about the possible environmental implications of the process.

Heath said it is environmentally safe. “There has been a lot of research done on this,” he said.

He also said that those performing aquamation have to follow similar regulations to those used in fire cremation.

Heath said the bill was inspired by a constituent who purchased a device for aquamation for her funeral home but was denied a crematory licence because she didn’t have a furnace.

“The truth is people who are smart and understand this don’t have an issue with it,” Heath said during the floor debate.

If the bill passes the House, it will take effect on July 1st.