An obese woman's body fat caused a crematorium fire in Graz, Austria, the Daily Mail said. The report said the woman's size- 440 pounds- caused the incinerator to overheat, reaching 570 degrees Fahrenheit. The firemen said this wasn't an isolated problem, with similar fires having been previously reported in both Austria and Switzerland.
In April, Spiegel reported a spate of crematorium fires in Germany linked to obese cadavers. The problem stems from fat burning at a higher temperature than other body constituents, overwhelming the incinerators. According to one funeral provider, fatty tissue generates 20 times the heat of lean tissue.
In France, a man told his deceased wife was too big to be cremated by multiple crematoriums sued the crematoriums for discrimination in 2010, the Telegraph reported.
"It is an outrage. She was mocked for her size in life and now she is mocked in death," Andre Pelabarrere said of his wife Danielle after several crematoriums rejected her coffin as two inches too wide for their incinerators. Pelabarrere found a crematorium 100 miles away which was able to accommodate his wife's remains.
One funeral director who rejected Pelabarrere's request denied discrimination, saying he would incinerate any remains that fit in the incinerator but couldn't fit Pelabarrere's coffin inside.
A new crop of crematoriums catering to an XXL clientele have sprung up in some countries including Britain and Switzerland, the Daily Mail noted. Using those crematoriums may require shipping the deceased's body some distance as happened with Pelabarrere.
In the U.K., localities are being asked to build larger crematoriums to accommodate expanding waistlines and the bigger coffins required to contain them upon death.
Handling Obese Remains-Special Considerations
According to Funeral Business Advisor, America's obesity epidemic is increasingly raising issues concerning handling of remains. Starting with the carrying of the body, there's a need for extra manpower. Coolers where bodies are stored sometimes don't have large enough doors to accommodate XXL remains. The same is true of doors to the facility itself when it comes to the extremely obese. Equipment used to hold obese remains pending cremation needs to be strong enough to accommodate the weight. The incinerator size must be sufficient.
Once the remains are ready to be cremated, timing becomes an issue. According to Legacy, obese cadavers are placed in cool incinerators to minimize the risk of overheating. That often means the cremation is timed for the start of the day. The remains also need to be placed to ensure the bulk of the body fat is as far from the heat source as possible. The cremation process takes longer with an obese body.
Obese bodies are causing another problem for crematorium operators: toxic emissions. Spiegel said heavier bodies cause spikes in pollution emanating from crematoriums. Short of causing fires, excess heat generated by burning obese corpses can cause a crematorium furnace to go into bypass mode to avoid meltdown. In bypass mode, the furnace releases smoke and other byproducts of cremation directly into the outside air, violating environmental emissions standards.