Direct Cremate

Do Cremains Have DNA?

Could there be DNA in cremated remains? It’s a question that many have asked and we’ve got the answer. Keep reading to find out what’s in cremains.
Could Cremains Contain DNA
Fascinated by DNA. A cropped shot of a scientist examining a DNA model

It’s understandable that there’s a lot of interest surrounding cremated remains. What interests people most is learning what cremated remains really are. In other words, what cremains contain. 

Cremation has been shrouded in mystery for some time, for good reason. Until recent years, few people were cremated, and most people simply weren’t familiar with the process. As cremation has become more common people’s interest has only grown. One thing that people are more interested in than ever is knowing if cremains contain DNA. Sometimes it’s out of sheer curiosity, other times it’s for a more practical reason like testing to ensure the cremains that are received are from a loved one. 

If you’re one of those people, keep reading to get the answer to whether or not there’s DNA in cremated remains. 

Is DNA in Cremated Remains?

Here’s the quick answer – highly unlikely. Cremated remains contain a number of elements, such as calcium phosphate and carbon, but DNA isn’t detectable in cremains. And cremains aren’t actually ashes. The only thing that remains after cremation are the bones, which are processed to remove any metal fragments and implants. The bones are then ground into a grainy powder.

Research has shown that skeletal remains do contain DNA. The rigid structure of bone allows it maintain DNA long after it’s gone from soft tissue. Modern forensic scientists can extract DNA from bones years after a person dies, but they can’t do that if a person has been cremated. 

Why There’s No DNA in Cremains

Now the question remains, why isn’t there DNA in cremains except in rare cases? If cremains are finely ground bone fragments, shouldn’t it contain DNA?

There are a number of companies claiming they can detect DNA in cremains, but you have to read the disclaimers. There you will see that the DNA testing company notes detecting DNA in cremated remains is very rare.

Flame cremation involves incineration. The retort gets up to around 1,800 degrees Fahrentheit. At that high temperature almost all of the DNA is destroyed. The next step in the process of pulverizing the bones into a powder makes it virtually impossible to extract DNA. Therefore, in almost all cases you can not identify who a person was with cremated remains using DNA analysis tools. 

And that’s also precisely why cremation is so tightly regulated and why documentation is needed throughout the process, including cremation authorization. Everything is carefully tracked to ensure the cremains are properly identified. 

Now, if cremains can contain a person’s spirit is an entirely different question with an even more complicated answer.

Do you have other questions about cremation? We’re happy answer any questions you have about the cremation process. The Direct Cremate team can be contacted with a call or text.