Alkaline Hydrolysis Laws in Your State

Learn about alkaline hydrolysis, an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional burial or cremation.

For decades, people choosing what happens to their body after death have had only two realistic options -- burial or cremation. But that may be changing. A new process, called “alkaline hydrolysis” (AH), is available in about 18 states, and every year more states are considering legalizing the technology. (The process may go by another name in your area, such as bio-cremation, resomation, aquamation, green cremation, flameless cremation, or water cremation.)

What Is Alkaline Hydrolysis?

Alkaline hydrolysis is a chemical process that uses a solution of 95% water and 5% potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide to reduce a body to components of liquid and bone.

Bone fragments are retained so they can be dried and turned into a substance similar to cremated ashes. The bone byproduct of AH may be scattered, buried, or disposed in any way cremated ashes are handled. Implants such as dental fillings or pacemakers can be easily separated from the bone fragments before the bones are rendered into “ash.”

The liquid byproduct of alkaline hydrolysis is a nontoxic solution of amino acids, peptides, sugars, and soap that can be disposed of through local sewage systems. Many have uncomfortably analogized this process to “pouring bodies down the drain,” a characterization that often overlooks the fact that body fluids and blood are routinely poured down the drain during traditional embalming practices.

Essentially, alkaline hydrolysis mirrors the chemical decomposition that happens when a body is buried, except AH takes just hours -- from three to 12 depending on the temperature and pressure in the chamber -- instead of months or years.

Arguments For and Against Alkaline Hydrolysis

From the early 1990s through the mid-2000s, AH was used only as a method for disposing of animal remains or human bodies that had been left to medical schools for research. More recently, states have been considering adding AH to the methods consumers might choose for body disposition. Often, this proposal is controversial.

Supporters of alkaline hydrolysis argue that it’s the most environmentally friendly method of body disposition, with the potential to avert the millions of tons of wood, metal, and concrete -- along with millions of gallons of embalming fluid -- buried each year in U.S. cemeteries. Proponents note that alkaline hydrolysis neutralizes embalming chemicals, toxic drugs such as chemotherapy medicines, and infectious organisms. It also avoids mercury emissions, a byproduct of heat cremation, and uses much less energy than traditional cremation facilities. In the future, it is even possible that the liquid component of AH could be made available to families for use as fertilizer or compost.

Some who oppose alkaline hydrolysis counter that not enough is known about possible health and safety issues. (Extensive monitoring in St. Petersburg, Florida showed no adverse effects on water quality.) However, most opponents object to AH on the grounds that it is not a dignified way to treat human remains. For example, the Catholic Conference of Ohio has contributed to the defeat of alkaline hydrolysis legislation in that state, arguing that “Dissolving bodies in a vat of chemicals and pouring the resultant liquid down the drain is not a respectful way to dispose of human remains.” Other Catholics, however, have concluded that AH is “morally neutral,” and much like cremation from the Catholic point of view. (See the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, 2008, p. 695.)

How Much Does Alkaline Hydrolysis Cost?

Alkaline hydrolysis equipment is expensive; it may cost a provider between $150,000 and $400,000 to purchase an AH unit, depending on the size of the machine as well as the temperature and pressure at which the system can operate. (Higher temperature and greater pressure result in faster decomposition, which allows a provider to handle multiple bodies per day, if necessary.) Because the equipment costs more than traditional cremation machinery, the procedure may be more expensive for consumers. That said, the costs of burial and cremation services vary widely and AH may cost more, about the same, or less than traditional methods, depending on the provider and options you choose.

For example, in Minnesota, basic alkaline hydrolysis costs about $2,400, while the cost of direct cremation -- that is, simple cremation without an on-site ceremony -- ranges from about $800 to more than $4,300, depending on the provider. The national average cost for a traditional funeral, including burial and a headstone or monument, is about $10,000.

Is Alkaline Hydrolysis Available in Your State?

This chart summarizes the alkaline hydrolysis laws in each state. Click on the name of the state to learn more about its burial and cremation laws.

State Status More Information
Alabama No law Alabama does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Alaska No law Alaska does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Arizona No law Arizona does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Arkansas No law Arkansas does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
California Legal but not available in state Alkaline hydrolysis was legalized in California in October 2017 by explicit statute. The law is set to go into effect July 1, 2020. (Section 7611.9 of the California Business and Professions Code).
Colorado Allowed without explicit statute Colorado legalized alkaline hydrolysis in 2011 when it changed its definition of cremation. (Colorado Statutes § 12-54-102.)
Connecticut No law Connecticut does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Delaware No law Delaware does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Florida Legal and available in state Alkaline hydrolysis had some of its first roots in Florida. Florida authorized alkaline hydrolysis by slowly expanding its definition of "cremation" to include methods other than incineration. (Florida Statutes § 497.005.) Several local funeral homes offer alkaline hydrolysis for human remains.
Georgia Allowed without explicit statute but not available in state Georgia legalized alkaline hydrolysis in 2012 by changing the state’s definition of cremation. (Ga. Code Ann. 43-18-1.) However, no funeral homes in the state currently offer the service. An Atlanta-based business offers alkaline hydrolysis for pets.
Hawaii No law Hawaii does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Idaho Legal but not available in state Alkaline hydrolysis was explicitly legalized in 2014, when the Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee adopted the process in a docket that amended the Rules of the State Board of Morticians. However, no funeral homes in Idaho currently offer the process.
Illinois Legal and available in state Alkaline hydrolysis was legalized in Illinois in 2012, when the legislature redefined “cremation” to specifically include the process. (See 410 ILCS § 18/5.) Multiple funeral homes in Illinois offer this process.
Indiana No law Indiana does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Iowa No law Iowa does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Kansas Legal but not available in state Kansas legalized alkaline hydrolysis in 2011, when the state broadened its definition of cremation to include methods other than “direct exposure to intense heat and flame.” (Kansas Statutes § 65-1760.) However, no funeral homes in Kansas currently offer the process as a service. The process is usually called “bio-cremation” in Kansas.
Kentucky No law Kentucky does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Louisiana No law Louisiana does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Maine Allowed without explicit statute and available in state Alkaline hydrolysis was legalized in Maine in 2009, when the Maine Attorney General approved a new definition of cremation in the Maine Rules for Establishment and Operation of Crematoria (144 CMR 244, Section 1.) There is one alkaline hydrolysis facility in Maine that offers its services to funeral homes in the state.
Maryland Legal but not available in state Maryland legalized alkaline hydrolysis in 2010, when the state explicitly defined cremation to include processes other than heat and flame. (Maryland Business Regulation Code § 5-101.) No Maryland facility has yet made the process available for human remains.
Massachusetts No law Massachusetts does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Michigan Possibly legal Alkaline hydrolysis appears to be happening in Michigan, but no statutes or regulations explicitly allow it. A few funeral homes offer it in their materials, but it's unclear whether the alkaline hydrolysis facilities are in-state.
Minnesota Legal and available in state Alkaline hydrolysis has been legal in Minnesota since 2003 when licensing regulations and requirements were applied to the process. Several funeral homes offer this service in Minnesota.
Mississippi No law Mississippi does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Missouri Allowed without explicit statute Missouri's laws do not allow alkaline hydrolysis by name. However, the process is considered a legal method of final disposition because Missouri lawmakers and the state funeral board consider the definition of "cremation" to include the process of alkaline hydrolysis. (See 20 CSR 2120-2.071). In Missouri, this process is often referred to as "aquamation" or "flameless cremation." Multiple funeral homes currently offer alkaline hydrolysis in Missouri.
Montana No law Montana does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Nebraska No law Nebraska does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Nevada Legal and available in state Alkaline hydrolysis was legalized in Nevada in May 2017 when Assembly Bill 205 was passed by state lawmakers, which included a specific definition of alkaline hydrolysis. Multiple funeral homes in Nevada offer alkaline hydrolysis.
New Hampshire Not currently legal but was previously legal Alkaline hydrolysis was legalized in New Hampshire in 2006 but the law was later repealed in 2008 before any facilities offered the process. An effort to pass a new bill in 2013 that would have legalized the process again failed. One funeral home in Jaffrey, New Hampshire works with an alkaline hydrolysis in Maine and sends human remains there to be legally processed.
New Jersey No law New Jersey does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
New Mexico No law New Mexico does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
New York No law New York does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
North Carolina Legal and available in state Alkaline hydrolysis was legalized when N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-210.136 became effective on October 1, 2018, which made alkaline hydrolysis an acceptable method of final disposition in North Carolina.
North Dakota No law North Dakota does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Ohio No law Ohio does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Oklahoma No law Oklahoma does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Oregon Legal and available in state Alkaline hydrolysis was legalized in Oregon in 2009, when the state updated its definition of “final disposition” to include the dissolution of human remains. (Oregon Revised Statutes § 692.010(4).) In Oregon, alkaline hydrolysis is regulated by the state’s Mortuary and Cemetery Board, which has published detailed rules covering "alternative disposition facilities." Multiple funeral homes offer this service in Oregon.
Pennsylvania No law Pennsylvania does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Rhode Island No law Rhode Island does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
South Carolina No law South Carolina does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
South Dakota No law South Dakota does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Tennessee No law Tennessee does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Texas No law Texas does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Utah Legal but not available in state Utah passed a bill specifically allowing for alkaline hydrolysis in 2018. However, there are not any current facilities in the state that offer alkaline hydrolysis.
Vermont Legal but not available in state Alkaline hydrolysis was legalized in Vermont in 2014. (26 V.S.A. 21 § 1211). Individuals who perform alkaline hydrolysis must obtain a license by the state and are subject to rules by the state licensing board. (See 26 V.S.A. 21 § 1252.) There are no funeral homes in the state that currently offer this process. To find an alkaline hydrolysis facility, you may need to look to one of the few states where the process is both legal and available.
Virginia No law Virginia does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Washington No law Washington does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Washington D.C. No law Washington, D.C. does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
West Virginia No law West Virginia does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Wisconsin No law Wisconsin does not currently have any laws or regulations about alkaline hydrolysis.
Wyoming Legal but not available in state In 2014, Wyoming opened the door to alkaline hydrolysis when it expanded the state’s Funeral Services Practitioners Act to cover “chemical disposition.” (Wyoming Statutes § 33-16-502.) No Wyoming facility has yet made alkaline hydrolysis available for human remains.

Look to your state's laws for the latest changes in alkaline hydrolysis in your state.

More Information

Read more about the process of alkaline hydrolysis on the website for the Cremation Association of America.

To learn more about final arrangements, including traditional methods of body disposition, see the section Getting Your Affairs in Order on Nolo.com.

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