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How Service Providers Ensure Cremation Ashes are not Mixed

Daniela Fortino
Daniela Fortino
August 26th 2022 - 6 minute read
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 Learn how reputable cremation companies such as Eirene ensure cremated ashes are never mixed or misidentified

Daniela Fortino

How reputable cremation providers ensure ashes are never cross-contaminated or misidentified

One of the most common concerns some families have about cremation is that a loved one's ashes could be mixed with the ashes of another person or misidentified and returned to the wrong family. The good news is there are precautions and procedures that reputable funeral homes follow to ensure that these kinds of mix-ups do not happen. There are also regulations in Canada and many other countries that are followed to prevent mistakes. Here is how funeral providers -- and specifically Eirene Cremations -- ensure these mistakes never happen.

Why is cross-contamination of ashes a concern?

Concern about mixed ashes comes from a misunderstanding about the cremation process. A common myth around cremation is that providers can cremate more than one individual at a time. Fortunately, this is not the case. There are strict guidelines and by-laws that crematoriums and funeral providers must follow.

In Canada, these guidelines prohibit the cremation of more than one person at a time in each cremation chamber. In some cases, special arrangements can be made to allow more than one individual to be cremated at a time, but it must be at the request of the deceased's family.

Cremation equipment is also not designed to cremate more than one body at a time. A body identification system is also used at crematoriums to reduce the chance of cross-contamination.

Nova Scotia Funeral Home Mistake

Even with precautions in place, mix-ups of ashes have happened in the past. For example, in 2019, a funeral home in Nova Scotia accidentally mixed-up bodies and mistakenly cremated one of them.

In the U.S, a New Mexico family was also given the wrong ashes, and their loved one's ashes were scattered by another family before the funeral home could correct the mistake.

Nonetheless, these mistakes are rare. They are non-existent when a reputable cremation provider like Eirene is used. That is because identification protocols are strictly followed.

How do funeral providers ensure you receive the correct ashes?

Identification protocols vary slightly depending on the funeral provider; however, this is done mainly with the use of tags.

When a body is received from a crematorium, it is tagged to denote the individual's identity. The tag can come in many forms that can include a bracelet around the wrist or ankle. The tag contains identifying information such as the individual's name and date of birth. It may also include additional data such as height, weight, race, gender, and more.

The tag protocol is a crucial part of the cremation process and is followed carefully by the crematory staff. The tag is checked through all aspects of the cremation process. It is also rechecked before the body is placed in a cremation chamber.

Another method that funeral providers use to track bodies through the cremation process is placing an identification disc on the body. The coin-shaped tag is a small stainless steel piece of metal about the size of a quarter.

The disc can be used as the body tag mentioned earlier or in addition to it. Identifying information on the disc can be matched to the deceased person's paperwork to ensure accurate identification of the remains.

The disc is placed in the cremation chamber with the body. After cremation, it is included in the urn with the ashes. Because it is made from metal, it does not get destroyed during the cremation process. Providers and family members can check the tag with the paperwork after cremation if they want to, as well.

How Eirene follows strict protocols

At Eirene, we use a combination of methods when handling your loved one's arrangements. Each individual is tagged when we receive them, and they are placed in cremation containers, which are also tagged.

When the containers arrive at the crematorium, they are tagged again using an identification disc, which is placed on the body during the cremation process and included with the cremated remains. The disc is cross-referenced on the cremation certificate the family receives with the remains. If the family chooses, they can double-check the disk with the cremation paperwork.

"The family can also request what's called a witness cremation where they accompany their loved one to the cremation and start the cremation process," explained Jennifer Connolly, Managing Funeral Director at Eirene.

In this funeral option, the family attends the crematorium to witness the body placed into the cremation chamber. They can also push a button to begin the cremation process if they wish.

Additionally, Eirene offers the option to make an identification of the deceased -- for peace of mind -- before cremation takes place.

How to ensure you get the correct ashes

Even with identification protocols, families may still be concerned that their loved one's remains will be mixed with others. Here are some ways to ensure this does not happen:

  • View the cremation. Witnessing cremation is permitted in many areas, including Ontario. Some crematoriums have small, designated areas where family members can gather to witness the cremation and hold a small ceremony or celebration of life beforehand. Families request this for various reasons, including religious customs, closure, cultural traditions, educational purposes, and more.
  • Use reputable funeral and cremation services. To ensure the provider is reputable, ask people about their experiences, research the company, look at the company website, check reviews, and research news sites or articles about the business.
  • Talk to the funeral director. Funeral directors can be an excellent resource for families. They can outline the cremation process and identification protocols beforehand so you know exactly how your loved one's body will be handled.
  • Ask important questions. There are many things you can ask a funeral director beforehand to assure you. For example, many funeral homes use a third party for cremation services. Therefore, knowing this information beforehand allows you to research and assess the reputability of the third-party provider as well.
  • Know your funeral rights. This is important through every aspect of the funeral planning process. Funeral providers are required to be transparent about their services and costs. Therefore, almost all your questions and concerns can and must be answered.

Have a question? Contact our team 24/7

If you have a question about how your loved one's remains will be handled at Eirene, you can call our funeral professionals 24/7 by dialing 647-424-3408. Our team also answers email inquiries around the clock as well at support@eirene.ca.

Read additional questions and answers about cremation on our Cremation Q&A page.

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