During cremation, the funeral director or crematorium attendant places the container or casket holding the body into the cremation chamber, which is heated to anywhere between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Cremation takes from 2 to 2.5 hours, during which time the heat of the chamber consumes the body.
The heat and open flame from the chamber consumes all organic matter, leaving behind cremated remains, including some fragments of bone. The funeral director removes the remains and processes them into fine particles before placing them into an urn or a temporary container. A labeling system used during the process of cremation ensures identification of the appropriate remains.
In some states, a medical examiner or coroner must authorize cremation, due to cremation’s irreversible nature and the way it eliminates the ability to determine cause of death. For this reason, a certain amount of time must pass in some states before cremation occurs. To slow body composition, the crematorium refrigerates the body until such time as the process of cremation begins.
Prior to cremation, the crematory removes any medical devices, such as pacemakers, because they may explode during the process and pose a threat to attendants or crematory equipment. Remains returned to family members are powder-like ash and processed bone fragments.