Cremations release nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, hydrogen fluoride and hydrogen chloride into the air. Modern burials create their own problems because tons of valuable resources (hardwoods, metals and concrete) are buried in the ground.
So what’s the answer? More people are considering going back to what we used to do: natural burials. In these, the deceased (not embalmed) is placed in a shroud or biodegradable casket such as a plain pine box. The grave is not cement lined. This approach is kinder to the environment and less costly.
Whatever people choose, they ought to be fully informed of the costs and consequences.
Elizabeth Sexton, Riderwood
The writer is president of the Green Burial Association of Maryland.