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Dental Fillings Don't Cause Health Risk in Traditional Cremations

Posted on Oct 31 2008
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Opponents of a proposed site for open-air cremations who complained the site would pose a public health risk got their facts wrong, says ASK's principal consultant Ivan Vince.

According to Government officials, the plans would result in potentially harmful levels of mercury being released into the atmosphere due to dental fillings volatilising. But Vince, who provided evidence for a judicial review of the case, says their claims are unfounded. "None of them have bothered to read the evidence, which is that before people are cremated on these pyres they will have their fillings removed," he says.

Open air cremations are traditional in Hindu and Sikh religions. The Anglo Asian Friendship Society has been campaigning for Newcastle City Council to provide a place to carry out the ceremonies since 2006. However, the Government has recently produced several reports wrongly citing the risks of mercury emissions from fillings as a reason to ditch the plans.

ASK's review of the case was based on comparing the emissions from the funeral pyres to those from cows burned during the 2001 foot and mouth crisis. Vince found that despite local air pollution caused by funeral pyres, there was no significant risk to human health and in particular no risk of exposure to mercury.

"It's difficult to conceive of any risk to public safety from a funeral pyre situated two kilometres from the nearest occupied building," says Vince. "Even risks to the mourners would be similar to those encountered by a bonfire of comparable size."

But the legal battle over the site looks set to continue. Last week the Government department considering the case called for an adjournment, stating it had not yet had time to review the rebuttal evidence.

Earlier in the year, this story was covered by the BBC.  ASK's Ivan Vince appeared as a Health, Safety & Environmental Expert.  Watch here.

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Last changed: Nov 04 2008 at 12:53 PM


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