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cremation ashes chemical composition

Cremation Ashes: Chemical Composition


If you are wondering what the chemical composition of Cremation Ash / Cremated Remains is then the following should help, I found this courtesy of the Good Funeral Guide, but thought it was worth worth reproducing.

This a reproduction of the article:

The results provided, with the exception of Phosphate and Sulfate, are presented as the element. However, in the body these elements are present as a part of a variety of organic and inorganic compounds. Upon cremation, most of the organic compounds are converted to the metal oxide. Depending on the conditions of cremation, some may also be converted to carbonates. The inorganic compounds may remain as phosphates, sulfates, chlorides or carbonates, or may be partially converted to oxides. The carbon from the carbonates and the oxygen from the oxides and carbonates are not included in the data presented. Those elements are not determined by the testing procedures used for this report.

The precision of the testing procedure used is +/-10% of the reported value, i.e. Phosphate reported as 47.5% may be 42.8 to 52.2%

Gayle E. O’Neill, PhD.
TEI Analytical, Inc. Niles, Illinois

  • Phosphate 47.5%
  • Calcium 25.3%
  • Sulfate (Sulphate) 11.00%
  • Potassium 3.69%
  • Sodium 1.12%
  • Chloride 1.00%
  • Silica 0.9%
  • Aluminum Oxide 0.72%
  • Magnesium 0.418%
  • Iron Oxide 0.118%
  • Zinc 0.0342%
  • Titanium Oxide 0.0260%
  • Barium 0.0066%
  • Antimony 0.0035%
  • Chromium 0.0018%
  • Copper 0.0017%
  • Manganese 0.0013%
  • Lead 0.0008%
  • Tin 0.0005%
  • Vanadium 0.0002%
  • Beryllium <0.0001%
  • Mercury <0.00001%


So I asked Dr O’Neill the following:

  1. I am wondering if the results were derived from mass spectrometry, is that right?
  2. Have you ever carried out something similar for un-cremated bone as a comparator
  3. How toxic do the results indicted cremated remains are?

And got the following response:

1. The results were derived using ICP (Inductively Coupled Plasma Emission Spectroscopy).

2. No, we do not have uncremated bone for comparison.

3. I cannot comment on the toxicity.

We carried on investigating, so in answer to question 2, it seems that there four primary constituents that make up our bones ie Phosphates (is a salt or ester of phosphoric acid); Sulphates (a compound containing the bivalent group SO4); Calcium; and Potassium

I have asked another source, namely an Chemist from the site to comment on the toxicity.

He said:

I would not eat it or snort it, but otherwise, except for high calcium and phosphate, you might think it was just high phosphate dirt without the carbon. I think the metals may be a bit high but I would have to do some calculations to see how high. One question is do these “remains” include teeth, fabric, or jewellery? Toxicity, you would not dump a ton of it in the river, but otherwise, it would not be a concern.

Expert: Henry Boyter

……….So there you go.

13 thoughts on “Cremation Ashes: Chemical Composition

  1. Reply
    Warren - 4th March 2024

    Honestly this looks like dodgy misinformation to promote biodegradable urns which are really no different to putting ashes into a carboard box expect more expensive. The real problem is that sulphate and sodium is salt so that data is saying 13% of the 3kg of cremation as is 340grams of salt, which is very high by all standards…not to mention high pH is 12/14 almost 1 million times too high for most plants.

    dilution is still pollution. scattering anything that harms biology like ashes and cigarette buts is not good for soil biology and salt is terrible for photosynthesis

    If you’r going to do it, the worst thing you could do is use a biodegradable container as it concentrates the ashes. Scatter as far as you can to reduce the impact. or better use a non biodegradable container because in reality the ashes are not helping your plant grow, the plant has to grow around it in high concentration if is is to survive.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 11th March 2024

      Hi Warren

      I agree with most of what you saying, although I think perhaps little a cynical. Scattering over a wide area is good. Using this product is easily the best solution – living memorial

      As for biodegradable urns, it all depends if you just take scientific approach on the quickest way to ameliorate the impact. There are many factors such as religion and spiritually or even aesthetics. Very few families will approach this with neutralisation being the primary factor. Under certain circumstance a bio-urn will disintegrate and leave a ‘block’ of ashes under the ground, in other soils the acidic nature with cause a disintegration. I don’t tend to promote non biodegradable for burial for to reasons (even though I aspect your point about ‘escape’). Metal ones I think are a waste of resource, definitely wont get integration and risk being dug up in the future. Other wooden ones such as mdf have other pollutants.

      So I suppose in answer. No, it isn’t dodgy information – we try and provide the most accurate picture. Although I do appreciate a critical eye and challenge.

      Kind regards

  2. Reply
    Elizabeth Tonelli - 22nd February 2024

    Are the trees that can be grown with ashes really worth it. I’ve been reading that the composition of the ashes isn’t really that good for growing that tree or seeds. Any thoughts. I have ashes now for almost 4 years

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 28th February 2024

      There is a fairly simple answer Elizabeth – use this product Living Memorial – it is exactly what it has be designed for and works really well.

      Kind regards

  3. Reply
    Charles Justice - 12th December 2023

    Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

    This is the salient message of the Book of Ecclestiases, generally said to have been written by King Solomon.

    As I look around daily, at age 83, I basically agree with him.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 22nd December 2023

      Thanks for that Charles

  4. Reply
    Eralyn Javon Kelly - 15th May 2023

    I believe my grandmother was starved to death by her 1st born granddaughter over money. In 10 months she went from being healthy and vibrant to pale and bruised. She then then was cremated a week after her passing from supposedly her Alzheimer’s. She purchased 4 burial plots in the 80″ s. Which one was her own. We weren’t able to speak to her but found out in that 10 months 6 insurance policies from the 80″s were signed over to that granddaughter right before her death. I contacted the elder abuse hotline and tried to get someone to help us, but the person assigned to my grandmother found it to be a joke not taking it serious. 3 weeks later my grandmother died. Prior to her being held from us for 10 months the entire family cared for my grandmother especially her only surviving son. She had no illnesses except psoriasis and first stage of diabetes which was all managed by her regular physician here where we lived. My grandmother retired from California Department of Corrections for 30 years and moved to Oregon. the entire family moved there too. The 1st granddaughter visited everyone whenever she feel on hard times, but always seem to conveniently leave after sturing up drama. She didn’t honor my grandmother’s wishes. One policy belonged to a cousin that my grandmother raised from the age of 2. After her youngest daughter was murdered at the age of 16. My cousin has always been with my grandmother even after having gotten married and had children she lived close enough to stay near as we all have except the 1st granddaughter. My grandmother went to California to visit my Aunt who was ill. My Aunt ended up passing unexpectedly which left my grandmother alone. In the process of another family member helping to get my grandmother safely back to Oregon where she lived. The 1st granddaughter sneaked to California from Georgia where she lived but never could pay her rent. And convincing my grandmother to go to Georgia with her. We didn’t know anything about it. All we knew was she was missing so we sent out reports searching for her. She stayed in contact with everyone by phone or from her Facebook always giving us warm hugs from California until she was on the road to Georgia. Her phone was off and all communication was ceased. These 10 months police were called to do welfare checks because we were getting reports of her being abused and neglected. Starved and forced to stay in a room. Threats were made that when she takes a turn for the worse we won’t be notified if we didn’t stop trying to call and talk to her. My uncle wasn’t allowed to speak to her but 1 time before she died. He took a picture of her while on the phone if her face cut up and bruised. No one would help us. No one would listen to us. Now she’s gone and she cremated her so no autopsy could be performed. But yet when my Aunty passed she was left in the hospital mortuary for a month. She sent my grandmother to be cremated that same week she passed. No funeral, no calls to the family no nothing but messages claiming we are jealous of her. I don’t expect no lone to to know if anything that can change this outcome now. It’s been a year and my Uncle had to pay my grandmother 1st granddaughter so he could have her ashes. Yeah she gave him the ashes that was in the package it came in sealed in a bag with a tie inside a box. My grandmother received $3000 a month from her retirement and her late husband”s she could of at least made it look like she cared by getting a yearn to put her ashes in she’s been sitting in a box in a plastic bag with a dog’s high from the cremation place over about a year in the closet I truly believe in God’s revenge and so do the rest of us but how many other people thanks that this situation is from someone that’s straight from hell their damn self

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 17th May 2023

      Dear Eralyn

      That is a very sad story, as you say there is not much that can be done. I truly hope you and your family find peace.

      Kind regards

  5. Reply
    Peter Maxwell - 16th May 2022

    I never gave these things much attention, but thank you for explaining some of the science behind it with me. Personally, I believe cremation is the best option. In recent years, the rise in popularity of cremation ashes memorial jewelry has astounded me. I learned about the wonders and gorgeous works that serve as keepsakes thanks to Scattering Ashes and was more than convinced to acquire a necklace to hold my Father’s ashes. Do you have any ring urn recommendations, by the way?

  6. Reply
    Richard Blythe - 16th August 2021

    Wikipedia says that the ashes have between 1 and 4% of Carbonate. They later mention that the carbon in the ashes can be turned into diamonds. So, what is going on?

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 17th August 2021

      Memorial diamonds are effectively grown from the small amount of carbon remaining under massive heart and pressure, similar process to creating an industrial diamond.

    2. Reply
      Wendy Anderson - 23rd April 2022

      This is the argument that scam.busters is using to expose the diamond making companies are scammers.

      1. Reply
        Richard Martin - 25th April 2022

        I have seen memorial diamonds being made. I have seen the chemical process used to extract the carbon from the ashes. Whilst I certainly would not wish to comment on all diamond manufactures Algordanza in Switzerland is 100% reliable.

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