Photo: pet dander
There are any number of things wafting through the air in a home where a bird lives. Dust, dander, seed hulls and even airborne particles of dried poop occupy more than just the the immediate air space. It settles on and into everything creating the need for a higher standard of hygiene. Floor or ceiling fans and open windows seem to aggravate the problem more than solve it as it blows the settled dust back into the air. Some of the better home air conditioning systems will trap a great deal in its filters, the rest just lies there in the vents.
Whether you need to invest in air filtration depends on your circumstances. If you have multiple birds, have a few birds that you live in close proximity to or if you have allergies, I would recommend a good air purifier.
Among the dustiest birds are the cockatoo, the cockatiel and the african grey.They all produce a powder down that is finer in texture and more difficult to deal with, leaving a white film over anything that it lands on, in which you can write your name after a few days, if that interests you. If you have one or more of these birds (I have 4) a separate air filtration unit is your best bet to ensure good air quality in your home for both you AND your birds.
It’s important to note here that it is not recommended that you house any of these dusty birds near your macaws, especially the blue and gold, who are very susceptible to a respiratory disease called Pulmonary Hypersensitivity Syndrome resulting from poor air quality which has led to deaths in the blue and gold and some other macaw species. Further, Birdkeeper’s Lung is a human disease that can come from the inhalation of bird dander and other related particulates over a prolonged period of time. The particulates infiltrate the small air sacs in the lungs causing inflammation. As exposure continues, the lungs lose their capacity and the damage as irreparable. It has also led to deaths. Although macaws have different respiratory systems than humans, the outcome is basically the same.
There are several different types of air filtration available. When you live with birds, a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter is really what works best, since particulates are the main offenders. They range in cost from about $70 to $500+. The economical shopper is saying: “Where do I get the $70 one.” Before you run out to Target, let me point out that you will not really be saving money with these inexpensive units. Besides being questionable in their ability to really clean the air, they have filters that require constant replacement, mostly because they aren’t very good filters to start with. The cost builds up. And with birds, the filters need changing more often than recommended. Try to remember that the point of this is clean lungs.
Avoid anything ionic. These purifiers create ozone in dangerous amounts. In fact, The Sharper Image, who created the Ionic Breeze recently faced a huge class action lawsuit for knowingly deceiving the public as to just how much ozone was manufactured with the use of their product. I know this because it was the first air purifier I bought, and threw out.
Following this, I contacted my friends with multiple birds and asked them what they use. Most referred me to the Austin Allergy Jr. One person told me hers had been running 24/7 for 14 years and works as well as the day she got it. I bought one and LOVE it. There’s no question as to how well it’s working, I know it’s doing its job.
The unit I have cost about $300. In a non-bird household, the filter, which you will vacuum with your upholstery brush a couple of times a week to clean, needs to be replaced every 3 years (they cost about $125). With multiple birds, you will want to replace it more often. I replace mine about every 18 to 24 months because I have several of the most dusty birds.
When buying an air purifier, look for companies talking about the filtration. Forget about how pretty it looks in the wood cabinet, chances are more time was spent on that design. All that matters is how well it cleans the air. Mine incorporates a HEGA (High Efficiency Gas Air) filter that removes allergens, chemicals and gases from the air. It also removes, bacteria, germs, molds and smoke among other things. Air is filtered from all sides of the unit. If you’re going to buy an expensive unit, compared with the $70 ones, it should do all of these things.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.