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Valencia backtracks on plan to ban cremation of very obese bodies

Concerned about the air pollution created by a practice that is in growing demand, regional authorities have come up with a list of measures to curtail emissions from incineration

Very obese people will have access to cremation in Valencia after all.
Very obese people will have access to cremation in Valencia after all. EFE

Authorities in Spain’s Valencia region have backtracked on a plan to ban the cremation of bodies with morbid obesity because the burning process generates too many toxic emissions.

On Tuesday afternoon, the regional health department issued a release announcing changes to draft regulations that would have meant discrimination against severely overweight people.

The numerous petitions for new crematoria “make it advisable to establish new considerations regarding their location and operation”

“Although it is true that the cremation of people with morbid obesity can generate technical problems and require special needs (relating to the volume of the facilities and emission evacuation systems), these circumstances […] do not pose a differentiated health risk for public health in the terms established by the regulations,” said the official statement.

The measure was part of a set of new rules aimed at curtailing air pollution from cremation, an end-of-life choice that is in growing demand. The draft document, which is still undergoing public review, was flagged on Monday by the regional daily Levante-EMV, which highlighted the ban on incinerating large bodies.

Other provisions include a ban on incinerating the bodies of people who “underwent cancer treatment with radioactive needles.” The draft rules also prohibit the use of coffins containing resins, plastics or other elements that could create organochloride compounds or other highly toxic substances during combustion. Coffins containing lead or zinc will also be forbidden, as well as metal jewelry or accessories.

New crematoria will have to be located at least 200m from homes.
New crematoria will have to be located at least 200m from homes.

The preamble to the document notes that past experience and the numerous petitions for new crematoria “make it advisable to establish new considerations regarding their location and operation, with the goal of minimizing their impact on the health of the population.”

This introductory text also admits that plans to build any new crematorium never fail to “create a social alarm in the area where it is meant to go up.” All new facilities will have to be built at least 200 meters from homes, health centers, schools, parks and sports arenas, and preferably on industrial land.

The project builds on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, an international treaty signed in 2001 and ratified by Spain three years later. Other sources of inspiration include the conclusions of the Commission of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), which established a minimum distance of 200 meters between crematoria and residential buildings

English version by Susana Urra.

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