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Amid surge in COVID-19 deaths, air quality regulators lifted cremation limits in L.A. County

Due to COVID-19, there are so many dead bodies in Los Angeles County that air quality regulators have suspended limits on the number of cremations that can be conducted in the area.

The county's death rate is more than double the pre-coronavirus pandemic norm, The Guardian reports, and as of Friday, there were more than 2,700 bodies being stored at the coroner's office and local hospitals.

Los Angeles County has 28 crematoriums, but their permits all have a monthly cap on cremations due to environmental regulations. The South Coast Air Quality Management District said on Sunday that for the first time ever, it issued an executive order lifting those limits because there are so many bodies that need to be cremated. This was done at the request of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, which said the backlog of bodies was a potential threat to public health.

Studies show cremations release mercury emissions from dental fillings, The Guardian reports, but a spokesperson for the South Coast Air Quality Management District said the "air toxics impacts" from these extra cremations is expected to be "relatively small."

As of Monday, California has reported more than 3 million coronavirus cases. In Los Angeles County, the death toll hit 13,848 on Sunday, with more than half of those deaths occurring since Thanksgiving.