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LA County suspends air-quality regulations over cremation ‘backlog’

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  • The South Coast Air Quality Management District said in a news release on Sunday that it as lifting air-quality regulations that limit the number of cremations that can be performed in Los Angeles County.
  • The agency said the regulation was lifted to officials could handle a “backlog” of bodies of people who have died in LA County during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The regulation has been lifted for 10 days, with the option to b extended. 
  • LA County is currently seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and has reported 13,848 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Los Angeles County has temporarily lifted air-quality regulations that limit the number of cremations that can be performed monthly as officials handle a “backlog” of bodies of people who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District said in a news release on Sunday that it was issuing an emergency order to lift the cremation limit put in place “based on potential air quality impacts” after requests from the Los Angeles County Medical-Examiner Coroner (ME-Coroner) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

According to an order issued by South Coast AQMD, which regulates air pollution in multiple counties across Southern California, as of January 15, there were more than 2,700 bodies being stored at hospitals in LA County and at the Coroner’s office and officials didn’t have the resources or capability to perform cremations under current regulations.

“The current rate of death is more than double that of pre-pandemic years, leading to hospitals, funeral homes, and crematoriums exceeding capacity without the ability to process the backlog of cases,” the agency said, adding that any facility planning to exceed cremation limits should file an email notice citing capacity and temperature requirements.

Los Angeles County has reported 13,848 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and more than 1 million cases overall.

Hospitals recently said they were running out of oxygen, while in December a coffin manufacturer said east LA was facing a wood shortage due to demand increase amid COVID-19 deaths.

The South Coast AQMD said the order lifting cremation regulations would last 10 days but may be extended as the county coroner “anticipates that another surge is approaching as a result of the New Year’s holiday since deaths tend to occur 4-6 weeks after gatherings.”

The agency said all other air-quality rule requirements would remain in effect during its lift on cremation restrictions.

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