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Handling Decedents Contaminated by Radiation

Recent news reports about the recovery of persons who died in the earthquake or tsunami that struck Japan have focused on concerns that the remains may be contaminated by radiation, especially if they are located near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.


While it is unlikely that a funeral director in the United States will encounter a decedent whose body is contaminated by radiation, the possibility exists. Several years ago, the CDC released guidelines addressing how medical examiners, coroners and funeral directors should handle decedents who are contaminated by radiation. NFDA Past President R. Doggett Whitaker assisted with the development of these guidelines. A printed version can be found on the CDC website and a video explaining how one can safely handle human remains found to be contaminated by radiation.