Which is a more popular choice and why - burial or cremation? What is allowed in Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and other religious beliefs? How much does a cremation or burial cost?

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Burial

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Cremation

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Permitted in Islam Yes No
Permitted in Christianity Yes Yes
Permitted in Hinduism No Yes
Permitted in Judaism Yes No (except liberal Jews)
Permitted in the Bahá'í faith Yes No
Zoroastrianism No No

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edit Effect on the environment

Although cremation was promoted after the Second World War as environmentally preferable to burial, modern thinking is challenging this. Gas is consumed in the process and harmful pollutants are released into the atmosphere. The major emissions from crematories are: nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, hydrogen fluoride (HF), hydrogen chloride (HCl), NMVOCs, and other heavy metals, in addition to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP). According to the United Nations Environment Programme report on POP Emission Inventory Guidebook, emissions from crematoria contribute 0.2% of the global emission of dioxins and furans.

Natural decomposition after burial seems less harmful to the environment, especially when a shroud rather than a coffin is used.

However, burial is also a known source of certain environmental contaminants. Embalming fluids, for example, are known to contaminate groundwater with mercury, arsenic and formaldehyde. The coffins themselves are another known source of contamination. Another concern is contamination from radioisotopes that entered the body before death or burial. One possible source of isotopes is radiation therapy, although no accumulation of radiation occurs in the most common type of radiation therapy involving high energy photons. However, cremation has no effect on radioisotopes other than to return them to the environment more rapidly (beginning with some spread into the air). Thus, cremation is of no overall help with pollution from this source.

edit Space

Yet another environmental concern, of sorts, is that traditional burial takes up a great deal of space. In a traditional burial the body is buried in a casket made from a variety of materials. In America the casket is often placed inside a concrete vault or liner before burial in the ground. While individually this may not take much room, combined with other burials it can over time cause serious space concerns. Many cemeteries, particularly in Japan and Europe as well as those in larger cities, have run out, or are starting to run out, of permanent space. In Tokyo, for example, traditional burial plots are extremely scarce and expensive, and in London, a space crisis led Harriet Harman to propose re-opening old graves for "double-decker" burials.

edit Cost

In general, a cremation is cheaper than a burial. According to the BBC, grave digging can cost upwards of £600 whereas a cremation costs around £200 to £300 in the UK.

edit Cremation vs Burial Statistics

In the United States, roughly 27% of the dead bodies are cremated. Cremation was illegal in Britain until 1884. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, intellectuals, writers and artists in Britain promoted the idea of cremation. By 1940, about 9% of the population chose to be cremated. But now that percentage is over 70.

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