Non-Stick Cookware Kills Another Parrot!

Photo from babble.com

Earlier this week, I heard about yet another parrot death following exposure to the toxic fumes of non-stick cookware. This death is particularly frustrating because this owner HAD heard the warnings, but didn’t take them seriously.

It astonishes me that some people still aren’t aware of this danger (for both birds AND humans) in this day and age, and it makes me wonder what we are doing wrong that the information is not reaching everyone.

But, what are you to do when someone DOES have the knowledge and chooses to disregard it? For anyone who thinks this is overcautious drama, please read the next paragraph very carefully:

If your bird is exposed to the toxic PTFE or PFOA fumes emitted by certain non-stick coatings like teflon, it is likely to die an excrutiating death as it suffocates in the fluids its lungs rapidly produce to protect themselves. The vast majority of birds die from acute edematous pneumonia before they reach the vet. Those with minor exposure that manage to survive suffer with lifelong health repercussions from the event.

This matter must be taken very seriously and information must be shared so that no more birds have to die in this horrible manner.

Photo from greenlagirl.com

WHAT ARE PTFEs?

PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene. It is known by the brand name Teflon. Exposure to PTFE fumes causes flu-like symptoms in humans and almost certain death in birds because of their sensitive respiratory systems.

A big misconception is that Teflon only offgasses at high temperatures. The manufacturers of Teflon (DuPont) originally defended their product by saying that one had to leave a pan on the burner over high heat in order for it to offgas. This claim has been proven false: they offgas at lower temperatures, enough to kill a bird.

The Environmental Working Group (in 2003) stated that nonstick coatings “could reach 700 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as 3-5 minutes, releasing 15 toxic gases and chemicals, including two carcinogens.”

WHAT ARE PFOAs?

PFOA stands for perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as C-8), a petroleum based product. It is a carcenogenic chemical used to bond the nonstick coating to the pan. Low levels of PFOA can be found in the blood stream of 9 out of 10 Americans and in their newborns.

The DuPont company, again in trouble with the EPA, was fined with the largest penalty in the agency’s history ($10.25 million) for holding back information about the toxicity of PFOA for many years. DuPont recently announced their intentions to phase out PFOA by 2015. But they haven’t proven to be very forthcoming about their practices so far, so I wont be trusting their intentions any time soon.

WHAT IS “GREEN” COOKWARE?

Green cookware, also known as “eco-friendly”, is cookware that is safe for the environment (including the environment in your home). Green is a HUGE word in the marketing world today and many things are referred to as “green” without having any real right to that claim. Buyer beware.

Most “greenware” metal pans are hard anodized aluminum pans that have under gone an electrochemical process that makes their surface very slick and resists foods sticking to it. It sounds scary but is perfectly safe. Its surface is highly durable – even moreso than stainless steel.

Other common “greenware” is ceramic or silicon based. Silicon is a natural material that makes up 28% of the earth’s crust. It is processed into a coating that is basically glass. While I feel that it is likely quite safe, there are claims that it melts at temperatures lower than those listed that it can handle. I have no real evidence of this fact, however.

Ceramic coating is the basis for Thermolon, and the coating used in “GreenPan”. The jury is still out on this product. Thermolon initially claimed the use of nanotechnolgy in its product recipe, but they later denied the claim blaming it on “over-enthusiastic copywriters” who thought it sounded cool. I guess no one in the company is reading the press releases – OR they are just another manufacturer which cant be trusted. Take your pick. A few recent studies have questioned the safety of the use of nanotech in cookware, perhaps that had something to do with their need to come clean.

The bottom line with “green” cookware is that it is still evolving and we will be learning as we go. We have options available now that may not be perfected just yet, but aren’t going to kill your bird. If non-stick makes you nervous, stainless steel, cast iron and glass are available as options.

When you are selecting a non-stick brand, make sure it is listed as PTFE AND PFOA free. And let’s not let any more birds die because of our bad choices.

The following is a link from ewg.org files that enlarges the teflon temperature chart: http://www.ewg.org/files/infographic_thermometer.pdf. (Thanks, Pat!)

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 

35 comments

Rachael Holaday

Are copper or titanium pans the same? I am finding mixed reviews?

Rachael Holaday
Susan

What are the best stainless steel Brands to buy? Without Teflon or any coating.

Susan
Allison

What about Le Creuset pans? They are ceramic coated cast iron.

Allison
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Ron

The focus seems to be on pots and pans. I am looking at a Breville Toaster Oven that has a non stick interior finish. I assume this is the same issue?

Ron
SadDaddy

Teflon killed my daughters two birds, we kept them in the kitchen and I let the water dry up by mistake while steaming some vegetables and the pan overheated release some very bad fumes. I had no idea about how toxic this coating material really is and Im mad at the makers for not putting a warning label on the products so consumers are more aware. How many users of the pans are sautéing vegetables at high heat etc.. Makes me very sad that more isn’t done to educate everyone about the dangers to our pets and families.

SadDaddy
Sheri

I am glad everyone here is so helpful. A local couple lost their 25 year old B&G’s when they bought a new oven and turned it on. Those people lost their feathered children and people where mean and nasty!

Sheri
Roy

Then what about the clothes dryer, the dishwasher (when heating teflon pans), central electric heat coils, and maybe even the metal woodstoves?

Roy
gen

It might have effects to humans too.. Its just that we really don’t feel it.. But with an accumulated time… It might have a big impact to all of us not only for the birds… We must choose wisely…

gen
Barbara DelGiudice

This is so sad. I don’t think the stuff should be sold. I use stainless steel. Just think of what the Teflon does to you!!! I am very sensitive and don’t want to use anything that is dangerous. If you are not sure, don’t buy it!! Plain and simple. I also use non-toxic products in my home for cleaning, washing dishes, bathing, laundry, because of me and my birds. Don’t use anything that is coated. Why even take the risk? How dumb can people be.

Barbara DelGiudice
MuddW

Cast iron pans are fine as far as I know. Almost killed my birds once too and knew about the teflon. Accidentally left a pan on, not realizing that it was burning away. Luckily, my house is well ventilated. After that, my birds got moved into a room farther away from the kitchen and I threw every non stick pan out. Yes, ovens can be coated too. I worry about it ever time I use it.

MuddW
Sally Smith

A list of safe pots/pans would be helpful….

Sally Smith
Peggy Jeffries

I wrote out a big post that seems to have gotten lost ( sigh!). I’ve done a lot of “homework” on non-stick ( and other) cookware. Just want to say that the new “green” cookware is NOT!!! safe for birds. I got a “new green” pan for Christmas, so I called Cuisinart. I spoke to a very knowledgeable person, who said they would NOT recommend that households with pet birds use these pans. I took mine back to the store for a refund. Also, Questions I have: Does anyone know of a brand of Toaster oven that doesn’t have non-stick lining & is not “self cleaning”? I also want to get a bread maker, but all I’ve seen are coated with non-stick. I plan to use the bread maker outside on my balcony only ( weather permitting), but this wouldn’t be reasonable for a toaster oven that I use a # of times a day. Help!

Peggy Jeffries
Amy

While definitely factual, your article fails to go into actual scientific detail regarding teflon and toxicity to birds. Sorry I’m a biologist, and am therefore naturally skeptical – can you give me any links to peer-reviewed scientific articles regarding the matter please? I’m definitely interested in the matter, I have a cockatiel and I have non-stick pans in my house – I just haven’t seen much actual evidence to support that birds can die unless if the pans are overheated. Thank you!

Amy
Raithial

I can’t begin to comprehend people who’d disregard advice from the top people in their fields? In my experience, if the Bird-tricks staff tells me something in regard to birds, I am more than willing to risk my bird, my arm and my leg on it. When I heard of all the troubles Teflon could cause for my birds, I immediately put all my Teflon pans on sale and baught myself some good oldfashion cooking-gear. And sorry if I sound harsh; but if people disregard that kind of advice, it’d be the same as disregarding the advice from a doctor when it comes to a cranial melanoma (liquid-buildup in your head, If I recall right). I do hope that with this post more people will become aware of it; I for one will mail it to all my friends and family that have birds

Raithial
Errol

Most of us were ignorant about the threat Teflon and its impact on birds or humans. Not having to scour pots and pans was a great advance in technology and we embraced it with a passion. We have a large set of stainless steel pots and pans that we seldom used until we added our parrot to the family and learned about the dangers of Teflon. Now, we use the pots and pans that are safe, stainless steel or iron. My iron skillet, which is soaked and washed without scouring and gets a vegetable oil wipe before putting away is as slick as any non-stick pan and cooks much more evenly. It’s not a sacrifice to use it. The rapid increase in autism may be one of the terrible things caused by non-stick coatings. Just an opinion.

Errol
macawma

Stainless steel, cast iron, and glass is all we use in our household. I hated Teflon before I ever even heard this. Also, I do not microwave anything, especially anything for the birds. I hear about people heating their handfeeding formula in the microwave and think of the poor babies. It changes the molecular structure of the food. No wonder there is so much cancer and wierd autoimmune diseases these days…

macawma
Mischa Rose

I lost four birds due to teflon—I had spoken with DuPont and they insisted it was safe at low temperatures. I was using a non-stick teflon tray liner and low temperature or not, it killed my birds. We had them necropsied to be sure and I contacted DuPont afterwards and never heard a word back.

Mischa Rose
Wendy

Thank you for the interesting read. I close the door to my bbq room (where my 2 “kiddies” sleep) when I am cooking – it’s more force of habit. I do, however, make sure that they are closed when I use cast iron as it smokes a lot and I’m not entirely sure that that is safe for the parrots. So, better safe than sorry. Fortunately, I don’t have teflon or funny coatings on my pots/pans – just stainless steel.

Wendy
Bill wiseman

The new ceramic pans (I got mine from Amazon) is safe and better than Teflon. Less than $30

Bill wiseman
Kira Derhgawen

Which heaters should we not use? What about oil-electric ones? Do they have a special coating? Please, somebody respond. Thanks.

Kira Derhgawen
bill taylor

Until corporations set up independent testing and volunteer their wares for public results, just Clean the old way! Non-stick is a fast way to a dead bird. Generally, cooking up wind of parrots is a really poor practice. Cooking with parrots having access the kitchen kills birds regularly from landing in boiling water to toxic cooking fumes that humans are not vulnerable to. Bird lungs are Different, much more efficient than ours so that they are capable of flight and those differences make them far more sensitive to many toxins and substances. And bird minds won’t wrap well around the idea of really hot things. Partly as they have no heat sensing nerves. Which is why you test the temps of any cooked foods or liquids before offering them to birds. Avian vets see birds with scalded mouths and throats far too regularly.

bill taylor
Ushi

I thought this was common knowledge ! ANYTHING unnatural is no good to you , to me , to our Animals , nor the Environment ! Geddit ? Xx

Ushi

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