Mourners told to ‘ask first’ when leaving personal items inside coffins

The news follows increased reports of combustible items such as alcohol, mobile phones or battery-powered devices found inside coffins which can all cause an explosion if cremated

The Crematorium and Memorial Group (CMG), which operates 46 crematoria across England and Scotland, has asked families to not leave personal items inside coffins without asking first as they may unintentionally pose a safety or environmental risk.

The news follows increased reports that combustible items such as alcohol, mobile phones or battery-powered devices have been found inside coffins, all of which can cause an explosion if cremated.

Hard objects such as golf or bowling balls can be propelled during the cremation process causing substantial damage to the equipment. Plastics used to manufacture items such as fishing rods and sporting goods can emit poisonous fumes once set alight.

However, the group stated that personal mementoes such as wooden rosary beads, unframed photographs, religious texts or handwritten tributes on paper or card can all be left in the coffin. Jewellery and medals can also be cremated but cannot be recovered afterwards.

Furthermore, CMG advises families not to leave items of sentimental or financial value in the coffin and to be sure to remind their funeral director to remove any items before cremation takes place as staff are not legally permitted to open a coffin once it is placed in the chapel prior to the service.

Tony Davidson, technical services manager, CMG, said: “We understand that mourners may wish to leave items in the coffin, but we respectfully ask that they talk to us or their funeral director about alternative ways of personalising the funeral.

“The worst case scenario is that these items damage the cremator or injure a colleague causing a delay to other family’s funerals. Clearly nobody would want this to happen.”

CMG’s advice is echoed by Brendan Day, secretary at The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authority.

He said: “For many years we have provided guidance to funeral directors on items which should not be placed in coffins with the deceased.

“We recognise the importance of personalising a funeral, however, to protect the environment and crematorium staff it is necessary to exclude items which have the potential to produce harmful emissions and even explosions.”

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