Exploding Pacemakers

In the late 1970s, crematoriums began to report that, on occasion, bodies would violently explode while being burned, often causing structural damage. The problem was soon traced to pacemakers that were turning corpses into bombs. Awareness of the problem has lessened the frequency of the explosions, but they do still occur.

An article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (July 2002) offers some background info:

The first reported case of a pacemaker explosion during cremation was in 1976. The body of a 70-year-old man was cremated at 800 °C. After 5 minutes, four explosions occurred in rapid succession with a final explosion a few minutes later. In the wall of the cremator was a finger-sized hole half an inch deep. Among the cremated remains, there were five discs ‘resembling the ends of rifle cartridges’, a short length of wire and a metal plate. The device was identified as a zinc/mercuric oxide pacemaker. These pacemakers explode on cremation because of the rapid formation of hydrogen gas which bursts the pacemaker casing...

Though these explosions are infrequent, in some crematoria there is more than one explosion per year. Pacemaker explosions can damage the cremator, breaking doors or brickwork. The noise of an explosion may cause distress. Sometimes, pacemaker remains are found. Injury to staff is fortunately rare.

McLean County News - July 23, 1981

     Posted By: Alex - Wed Mar 04, 2020
     Category: Death | Explosives

Nothing like going out with one last BANG!
Posted by KDP on 03/04/20 at 10:25 AM
Obligatory reference: "The Crow Road" by Iain Banks.
Posted by Phideaux on 03/04/20 at 12:21 PM
And I hear Leslie Fish singing "Grandma Went Out With A Bang".
Posted by Jay Dee on 03/04/20 at 01:53 PM
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