The residents of Lower Margibi County, Liberia left homes and farms after the government announced the use of an old local crematorium near Boystown to cremate Ebola victims. Residents believe the cremations may cause environmental hazards as well as expose them to Ebola tainted waste.
“No one wants to live around here anymore,” said community chairman Mr. Albert T. Reeves. “Many here are affected psychologically and what we are asking for is the relocation of the crematorium by the Liberian government. Whenever the human bodies are being burnt in the morning and in the afternoon, there are huge explosions and everyone here can feel the ground itself shaking.”
The Liberian Observer toured the area on Tuesday with Reeves and many residents. People from the surrounding small towns wrote a letter to their senator, Oscar Cooper:
On August 2, 2014, we were shocked to learn that the old Indian crematorium which should not be used to cremate anybody because of its proximity to an emerging community, had been selected for the cremation of EBOLA BODIES by the custodians of our safety and rights.
The residents also protested the move, but were reportedly “harassed and intimidated into submission by heavily armed soldiers.” Reeves told the Observer that Cooper has not answered the letter. That action alone is irritating the occupants.
Even though the residents do not have Ebola, they are treated with the same stigma Ebola patients and survivors endure. Markets refuse to serve them or sell them any products.
“They refuse to sell products to us as we are also known as the Ebola community,” Reeves said during the tour.
Stephen Neufville is in charge of cremating bodies of Ebola victims. He told the Observer he is aware of the county’s concerns. He also said the Environmental Protection Agency was notified of the possible environmental hazards and will investigate.
“After their investigation we will act on their (EPA) recommendations,” he said.
There is no evidence if Ebola can be transmitted through cremation. However, cremation has sparked worries around the world, even in America. In 2007, health officials in Colorado voiced concerns about emissions from mercury in dental fillings. Officials told funeral home owner Rick Allnutt he needed to “[I]nstall a filter on his crematory’s smokestack or extract teeth of the deceased.” The cremation industry claims “there’s no evidence of danger.” Georgia’s senate formed a Senate Crematoria Study Committee in 2012. Mercury was the main concern in Georgia, just like Colorado. The cremation industry in the state also said there is little evidence of mercury poisoning from cremation.