Charnock Richard Crematorium urges families to avoid leaving 'explosive' and 'toxic' items in coffins: These are the personal items that are allowed and those that are deemed 'hazardous'

A crematorium near Chorley is asking grieving families to avoid placing potentially hazardous items inside their loved ones' coffins.

By Matthew Calderbank
Friday, 2nd July 2021, 3:32 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 3:34 pm
Charnock Richard Crematorium. Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Charnock Richard Crematorium. Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The friendly reminder has come from Charnock Richard Crematorium after concerns were raised about potentially explosive, toxic and other hazardous keepsakes left inside coffins prior to cremation.

It says certain items such as alcohol, mobile phones, batteries and plastics can produce harmful emissions and even explosions when cremated, risking harm to staff and the environment, as well as causing damage to the machinery.

The Crematorium and Memorial Group (CMG), who operate Charnock Richard Crematorium, says staff are unable to check for such items before cremation as they are not legally permitted to open a coffin once it is placed in the chapel prior to the service.

Charnock Richard Crematorium. Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

It says some of the items that have been left inside coffins prior to cremation include mobile phones, golf clubs and balls, fishing rods, computer games, cigarettes and cigars, alcohol and takeaway meals.

The crematorium is now appealing to families to ask staff first before placing personal items inside coffins to avoid any potential risks.

CMG’s technical services manager, Tony Davidson said: "We understand that mourners may wish to leave items in the coffin, but we respectfully ask that they talk to us or their funeral director about alternative ways of personalising the funeral.

"The worse case scenario is that these items damage the cremator or injure a colleague causing a delay to other funerals. Clearly nobody would want this to happen."

Brendan Day, secretary at the Federation of Burial & Cremation Authority added: "For many years we have provided guidance to funeral directors on items which should not be placed in coffins with the deceased.

"We recognise the importance of personalising a funeral, however, to protect the environment and crematorium staff it is necessary to exclude items which have the potential to produce harmful emissions and even explosions."

Placing personal items with our departed loved ones is a custom that dates back thousands of years and exists throughout many cultures, bringing much-needed comfort and solace to those who are grieving.

We know from historians that ancient Egyptians, Romans, Vikings and Anglo-Saxons all did this and we continue to follow the practice today.

But what items should we avoid placing in coffins prior to cremation?

Items that should not be left inside coffins

- Combustible items such as alcohol, mobile phones or battery-powered devices can all cause an explosion if cremated.

- Hard objects such as golf or bowling balls can be propelled during the cremation process, causing substantial damage to the equipment.

- Plastics used to manufacture items such as fishing rods and sporting goods can emit poisonous fumes once set alight.

- Clothes, accessories and shoes made from materials including treated leather, latex, and vinyl cannot be cremated, as these can release harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

- Families are usually advised not to leave items of sentimental or financial value in the coffin and to be sure to remind their funeral director to remove any items before cremation takes place.

Items that can safely be left inside coffins

- Personal mementoes such as wooden rosary beads, unframed photographs, religious texts or handwritten tributes on paper or card can all be left safely inside the coffin.

- Flowers

- Soft toys

- Jewellery and medals can also be cremated but cannot be recovered afterwards.

- Other people's ashes

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