What happens to things that don't cremate?

My MIL has it all figured out. The cremation is bought and paid for. The niche is bought and paid for. Easy, right?

I’m still wondering, though, what becomes of the parts of her that don’t turn to the “cremains”.

She has an artificial knee: ceramic, plastic & titanium, I think. She’s got a foot and ankle full of pins and screws. Does the morturary keep these? Will they be in the urn? Do I get an un and a zipper bag of leftovers? Will the end up on eBay as low-mileage, pre-owned joints?

What’s the scoop on cremation and stuff that doesn’t burn up?

This should read:

Do I get an urn and a zipper bag of leftovers? Will they end up on eBay as low-mileage, pre-owned joints?

Speed kills…

What about recycling?!

An article last year in the local sunday newspaper magazine section mentioned that funeral homes do a side business in dental gold. There could be several hundred bucks per skull that never goes back to the family.

The same article mentioned that hard objects are removed before the “ash” is put through a grinder (the stuff isn’t all powdered by the fire, it’s ground up afterwards.)


Fast forward 80 years…

All these chicks that have gotten breast implants the last 10 years.

Will there be a bunch of coffins that contain only dust & two breast implants?

This reminds me of a talk by Henry Lee, MD, the State medical examiner from Connecticut. He was giving a lecture at an analytical chemistry symposium and was discussing cremation, and how the enamel on teeth, being the hardest portion of the human body, withstands the process.

He was specifically referring to a case where a woman approached him with the cremains of a relative, because she felt that something “just wasn’t right.”

At this point, Dr. Lee asked the audience how many teeth an adult has. When no one answered, he shook his head in disgust. " A room full of PhDs, and no one knows how many teeth are in their mouth? 32. 32! So, I emptied out the bag, counted the teeth, and told her ’ you have one-and-a-half people in this bag!’"

I think they normally use a, well, “grinder” machine these days to pulverize bits of bone, teeth, etc. that survive (no pun intended) the cremation process.

I don’t know what they do with things that are too big to grind. Like titanium skull-plates. I’d guess that they remove said items from the body in the mortuary.

I know they make a big deal about removing pacemakers before cremation, they have a tendancy to explode. I never thought about it, but my mother-in-law had a pacemaker installed six months before she passed. Maybe I could have got a deal.

One version of grinder that is used (at least in the UK) is called a “cremulator” - a rotating stainless steel drum with three large (ie 15-20 cm) stainless steel balls in.

Before putting into the grinder, they first pick out any metal objects (hip joints etc) and then afterwards stuff use a large magnet to pick out the fixings (the steel pins).

Funeral homes might be able to pick out gold teeth pre-cremation, but after going through the cremation furnace - forget it - melted and unfindable.

What happens after that? Dumpster?

Is there an aftermarket for used medical thingies?

You sound as if you speak from a position of first-hand experience. A very interesting thread would be “Ask the Morturary Guy” over in IMHO.


Given that the knee joints, titanium plates, etc. don’t belong to the mortuary, they aren’t the mortuary’s to dispose of. When my brother was cremated we got his cremains in a box (he was mailed across the country) and the pins that had been in his leg in a small envelope.

About those teeth…

Odd to say, I had a conversation about cremation with a couple of friends who are “veterans” of the funeral industry just this past weekend.

Unless a body is the first to have ever been cremated in an oven, it is pretty well certain that the cremains are commingled to some extent with residue from previous cremations. The friend who told me this described his shock the first time he saw a mortuary attendant try to cram a plastic baggy with the remains of the dearly departed into an urn which wasn’t quite big enough; he merely dug out a few spoonfuls and threw them away.

Years ago I had a job inspecting businesses for the county in which I resided. These included funeral homes. Morticians tend to be a very open, friendly lot, I find. One of them had an old metal box in a closet of his office. It had become somewhat mis-shapened over the years, so that the lid no longer fitted firmly. Inside were unmilled cremains; they were remains from the 1920s which had never been claimed, he used to show them to people who were interested in seeing what the results of a cremation would look like. They seemed sort of like broken bits of sea shell, though porous and rough on all of the surfaces.

By the way, urns bought through funeral homes typically cost an arm and a leg–well, they are in business for a profit. I was told that there is nothing to bar a family from merely buying a nice liddedvase at a store and bringing it in.