AN INVESTIGATION into the UK funeral industry has exposed Weymouth Crematorium's deadly secret.

Each cremation produces toxic emissions equivalent to a car driving twice the length of the UK - or the same as 3,650 cars driving past the crematorium during the course of one funeral.

This is because the material of choice for around 95 per cent of coffins - chipboard and MDF - produces harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) fumes when burnt, producing the same level of NOx gas as a car driving 2,280 miles according to industry magazine Pharos.

In 2018 around 1,355 cremations were carried out at the facility at Westham, surrounded by hundreds of homes, two schools, playparks and some businesses.

Technology to cut the emissions is available, however an FOI investigation revealed that Weymouth Crematorium is among those to have not installed deNOx technology, as there is no legal requirement to do so.

Westham resident and councillor Ryan Hope said Dorset Council, which runs the facility, should "adopt best practise".

"The crematorium is close to a school," he added.

"It's important that we adopt best practise and for the issue to be taken seriously.

"The council must do everything it can to address the climate and economic crisis, and protect the local community."

Meanwhile, Westham resident and councillor Christine James said: "As we have signed up to address climate change, I expect Dorset Council should be looking into this.

"I'm not sure what the answer would be, other than to recycle the coffin by finding a respectful way to cremate just the deceased.

"A measured approach needs to be the way forward, looking at how many cremations are carried out each year and how many MDF coffins are used."

Figures published by The Cremation Society show cremations are on the rise, accounting for 78 per cent of UK deaths in 2018 (481,712 in total) – compared to 51 per cent 50 years earlier in 1968, when there were 327,901 cremations, and less than 1 per cent 100 years earlier in 1918, when there were just 1,795 cremations.

Despite the huge increase only a few crematoria out of the 307 nationwide are confirmed to have deNOx technology, although Dorset Council said it may explore the possibility of installing it in future.

A Dorset Council spokesman said: "As part of our climate emergency work we are looking at how we can reduce the carbon footprint of Dorset Council, including Bereavement Services.

"Weymouth Crematorium already operates above the minimum standards for emissions and we’re investigating how the latest technology could help us reduce emissions further."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said local authorities are responsible for regulation but that there is no UK law about nitrogen oxide emissions for crematoria.

Countries that have set limits include Poland, Czech Republic, Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain.

The government advises that nitrogen oxides might be lessened by switching to coffins made from alternative materials, with companies around the UK already producing 'green' coffins.

Meanwhile, privately-run Harbour View crematorium in Poole is among the few facilities in the UK to have deNOx technology.

Owner Steven Tapper said the cremation industry has been "burying its head in the sand" about emissions.

“The same filtration systems are available for crematoriums as for a car engine," he said.

“They cost around £30,000. In relative terms it’s small change. There’s really no excuse for not having them.

“The whole cremation industry has been burying its head in the sand.”

  • FOI data supplied by Bev Holder at Newsquest Data Investigations Unit