Florida funeral home using bio-cremation

Machine dissolves the body without using fire

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Lynn Moshier is planning.

Moshier lives in St. Petersburg, as does her 96-year-old mother. Her mother is preparing for life after death. Originally, she planned on cremation. But then her daughter saw something in the newspaper.

"And I said 'Wait a minute, this sounds like a much better idea,'" Moshier said.

What Moshier heard about was happening at Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home in St. Petersburg. In addition to burial and cremation, the funeral home was now offering a third alternative: bio-cremation.

The idea came from Scotland, the brainchild of biochemist Sandy Sullivan. Sullivan designed a machine that dissolves the body without using fire.

Instead, the body is placed inside of a machine and then immersed in a combination of water and potassium hydroxide (95 percent water and 5 percent potassium hydroxide). The combination, when heated, dissolves the body.

"It's a chemical reduction of body to ash," Sullivan said.

The liquid remnants are disposed of in the sewer system. The solid remnants -- alternately described as "dust" or "ash" by Sullivan -- are available to the family, according to John McQueen, president and CEO of the funeral home.

Scottish law does not yet allow for bio-cremation, but Florida does. So the machine was brought to St. Petersburg. Anderson-McQueen is the first funeral home in the country to perform bio-cremation.

According to McQueen, one of the benefits of bio-cremation is the impact on the environment. Bio-cremation uses one-eighth the amount of energy and leaves one-fourth the carbon footprint compared to regular cremation, McQueen said.

"This is considered an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional cremation," McQueen said.

Moshier and her mother, though, liked the idea because it made them feel more comfortable than regular cremation.

"(My mother) was so cute. (She said) 'I didn't like the idea of being burned anyway,'" Moshier said.

Anderson-McQueen has performed the procedure on approximately 20 bodies so far. They are charging the same price for bio-cremation as they are for regular cremation.

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