Crematoriums are struggling to deal with spiralling numbers of stouter clients as the UK's obesity crisis grows, local government leaders are warning.
The Local Government Association, which represents over 400 councils in England & Wales, is warning that local authorities are finding that many of their crematoria furnaces are too narrow to deal with increasing numbers of over-sized coffins.
To combat the problem, many councils are widening their furnaces, but coffins are also having to be transported to other crematoria that can accommodate them.
Standard coffins range from 16 to 20 inches. However, increasingly coffins anywhere up to 40 inches are being ordered to fit larger bodies. Around 430,000 choose to be cremated in Britain each year.
Lewisham Council has ordered a special cremator from America, measuring 44ins in width. Lewisham's crematorium has taken coffins from as far away as the West Midlands and Gloucester.
A new furnace at Mintlyn Crematorium in Bawsey was recently installed by King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council to accommodate coffins a metre wide. The furnace replacement was part of a £1.2m project to refurbish the crematorium.
Blackburn with Darwen Council takes bodies from all over East Lancashire. Plans have been put in place to install a 42-inch cremator in the next few years to deal with wider coffins. Bodies have been taken to Manchester in the past.
Many of the UK's crematoriums are installing new filtering equipment to comply with new laws to halve mercury emissions by 2012 and are taking the opportunity to widen their furnaces.
Cllr Hazel Harding from the LGA, says: "As long as the nation keeps on piling on the pounds, pressure will continue to be placed on crematoria. This is just another demonstration of how the UK's obesity problem is putting a real strain on public services.
"The death of a loved one is always a difficult time and having to decamp to another area for the cremation just adds to the ordeal. It is important that grieving relatives get the service they deserve and councils are doing what they can to accommodate larger clients locally.
"By upgrading their crematoria and widening furnaces, councils are changing the services people use for the better to make sure that relatives are not put out. As waistlines keep on expanding we can expect more and more councils to provide larger furnaces."
Tim Morris, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management said: "The Institute has received calls from funeral directors from all parts of the country whose local crematorium is unable to cremate large coffins. The likelihood is that a large number of facilities will be upgraded to meet these requirements with some taking this opportunity to install a larger cremator at this time.
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