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Cemeteries in America and the Effects of Them on the Environment

            There are many cemeteries in America. Some are based on ethnicity, such as African American and Native American. Some are private while others are public. Some cemeteries cater for a certain religion, such as Jewish, while others are multicultural. Some cemeteries mark periods in history such as the civil war and the world wars. Cemeteries have existed in America for a long time. Some of the old cemeteries have maintained their beauty, and they are well kept. The condition of some of these cemeteries sometimes depends on the people buried there. Various burial customs determined how the people were buried, and this ultimately affected the condition of the cemeteries, which in turn had different effects on the environment.

Some of the chemicals that were used to preserve the body have continued to affect the environment. People stopped using the arsenic acid when they realized the effects it had on the environment. Arsenic is not biodegradable, and it is still present in high concentrations in the early cemeteries. Other chemicals such as mercury and heavy metals are also used in embalming and they are harmful to the environment. People are buried in different caskets. Some people use metal caskets, which are harmful to the environment. Some of the caskets are made of metals such as copper, bronze and steel (Yalom 296). As time progresses, the caskets slowly erode, and they are carried by the rainwater when it rains. They penetrate through the soil, and they mix with the groundwater. They affect the quality of the water, making it unsafe to use. About 75% of the caskets made in the United States are made of steel (Mansvelt 167). Although some people see wood as the best preference for making caskets, they also admit that it contributes to the destruction of the environment. Many trees are cut so that people can get the necessary wood for making the caskets. In addition, most people prefer to use stone and metal grave markers and this adds additional negative impact on the environment.

Cremation is one of the common methods of burial. Although the process of cremation was not widely accepted in the country, it has become widely accepted and practiced in some states that it accounts for a huge percentage of the burials conducted. It has become so common that one in three people choose cremation as a method of burial (Yalom 272). This means that it has a significant effect on the environment, especially with the development of cremation cemeteries. Some people see this as a way of solving the space problem. This is an advantage, especially where there is a high population, and there is hardly any space to bury the dead. Yet cremation is not as beneficial to the environment, as it is alleged. Cremation contributes to air pollution. The process uses a lot of energy, and it emits dangerous chemicals such as sulfur dioxide. The process also emits trace chemicals from the body, which can be harmful to the environment (Yalom 296).

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