People suffering from bone cancer are often given pain relief by injection of radioactive strontium-89 (Sr-89), a radioactive substance which concentrates in the bone at the site of the cancer, but decays to half its original activity in 50 days.
If a person dies soon after treatment with Sr-89 a significant amount will remain in the bones. Consequently if the body is cremated, the remains will be radioactive.
The EPA has prepared an information bulletin intended for crematorium staff and funeral directors called Cremation of deceased persons containing strontium-89 and disposal of remains. This document outlines the radiation safety precautions for handling and disposal of the remains of a deceased person who had received medical treatment with radioactive Sr-89 shortly prior to death.
A copy of this document is available from the Radiation Licensing Officer at the EPA on (08) 8463 7826.