Handling of Human Remains - Natural Organic Reduction


Chapter 246-500 WAC sets rules to keep people safe when handling human remains. The State Board of Health (Board) can make rules to stop and manage diseases. This includes rules for handling and moving human remains. In 2019, Washington became the first state to allow natural organic reduction (NOR), also known as human composting, as a legal disposition method for human remains. In 2020, the Board updated Chapter 246-500 WAC to include NOR as an approved method and added a new section, WAC 246-500-055. The Board made minor updates to this section of the rule in 2023.

For More Information

Statutory Authority: RCW 43.20.050(2)(f) and RCW 34.05.310(4)(d)
State Board of Health Contact: Molly Dinardo, molly.dinardo@sboh.wa.gov

Additional Background

The Washington State Board of Health (Board) has the authority under RCW 43.20.050(2)(f) to adopt rules and standards for the prevention and control of infectious and noninfectious diseases, including rules governing the receipt and conveyance of remains of deceased persons. Chapter 246-500 WAC is the rule that establishes standards for health and safety measures in the handling of human remains.

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature passed ESSB 5001 (Chapter 432, Laws 2019), which authorized natural organic reduction (NOR) as a disposition method for human remains. In 2020, the Board updated Chapter 246-500 WAC to include NOR as an approved method and added a new subsection, WAC-246-500-055, to establish the requirements that NOR facility operators must meet for testing and analyzing samples to prevent and control any potential health hazards.

WAC 246-500-055 went into effect in January 2021. After the first year of rule implementation, Board staff followed up with NOR facility operators to determine whether implementation was successful and if additional guidance was needed. Based on feedback from the operators, staff identified a need for additional rulemaking to clarify the language in WAC-246-500-055.

The Board adopted amendments to WAC 246-500-055, (filed as WSR 23-09-027) at its March 8, 2023, public meeting. Amendments to this section of the rule include:

  • Correcting a typo in subsection (2)(b) concerning the weight of contaminants in reduced remains (changing dental “filings” to dental “fillings”).
  • Clarifying rule language in subsection (2)(f) and Table 500-A related to initial testing requirements and parameters.
  • Making minimal housekeeping changes to subsections (2)(c), (2)(d), and (4).

The updated rule went into effect on May 13, 2023.

If you have questions about the initial testing requirements and frequency of testing in WAC 246-500-055, Board staff have created a 
guidance document that operators and other interested parties can reference for further information. 

CR-102 filed on January 31, 2023, WSR 23-04-100

CR-103 filed on April 12, 2023, WSR 23-09-027

Related Links:

March 8, 2023, Board Meeting

January 9, 2023, Board Meeting