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Keywords:

  • cemeteries;
  • decomposition;
  • groundwater;
  • pollution

Abstract

The most common practice for disposal of dead bodies is inhumation in soil, which favours interactions with the surrounding environment and returns nutrients to the life cycle. However, when the burial ground is located where hydrogeological, geological and climatic conditions are not favourable to the process, contamination of soils and groundwater may occur, and decomposition may be inhibited, leading to social, economic and political problems. The most critical parameters when assessing the pollution potential of a burial ground are inhumation depth, geological formation, depth of the water table, density of inhumations, soil type and climate. Considering that, this paper presents an overview of the potential threat that cemeteries can pose, analysing and discussing the influence of the main variables causing environmental impacts and public health risks.