Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium urges families to avoid leaving 'explosive' and 'toxic' items in coffins

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

Monday, 5th July 2021, 12:30 pm
Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium.
Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium.

The friendly reminder has come from the 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 Lancaster and Morecambe 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.

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."

Staff at the crematorium are not legally permitted to open a coffin once it is placed in the chapel prior to the service.

Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium manager, Suzanne Orr said: "There are a number of alternative ways we can help a family to personalise the funeral.

"Our state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment has access to thousands of pieces of recorded music from traditional hymns to classical masterpieces to the latest pop or rock artists.

"We can also upload family photographs or home movies, and these can be played throughout the service to provide memories for the entire congregation.”

“Flowers have always been a traditional tribute, but these don’t have to be an elaborate or expensive display - flowers from the family’s garden can be just as meaningful.

"Mourners can also add a personal touch by writing a special memory or tribute on paper and including this in the coffin.

"If a family wished to include a small personal item with the ashes when they purchase a memorial, we would encourage them to talk to us about this option.”

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.