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Environmental movement has one foot in the grave

Even the dead pollute. Embalming fluid typically contains formaldehyde, a carcinogen, and extended exposure to that fluid can increase a mortician's risk of myeloid leukemia, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Heavy wood or steel caskets and concrete vaults consume natural resources, some of which are shipped from overseas, contributing to emissions of heat-trapping gases. Cremation, which causes less environmental harm than a conventional burial, is becoming more popular -- about 40 percent of those who died in 2010 were cremated, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. But while cremation requires less resources, it releases pollutants, including nitrogen oxides and mercury. So environmentalists have been promoting -- with some success -- "green burials."

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