Some of my recent posts have stressed to you the importance of knowing about the potential danger for the use of non-stick coatings in our major appliances (ovens) and other smaller household appliances (toaster ovens, hair dryers etc.), as well as certain types of cookware. There are a surprisingly high number of parrot deaths attributed to these products each year.
For those of you unaware of this hazard, appliances and cookware that utilize Teflon and other non-stick coatings send deadly gases into the air when heat is applied to the coating. These appliances require heat to perform their function. A bird in this air space will succumb to the fumes and die – within minutes.
I have recommended that anyone buying new appliances or cookware contact the manufacturer about the use of non-stick coatings in their product. I want to share with you the reply someone got from the makers of Calphalon cookware in response to his queries about its safety for use around parrots:
Our nonstick surface is Polytetra-Flouro Ethylene. Fumes are generated when this ingredient contained in Teflon, T-Fal, Supra and Calphalon Nonstick products is combusted. The normal use of products containing PTFE does not present a hazard in any manner to exotic birds. However, should a pan be boiled dry, or placed on a burner empty for a period of time, then there becomes a real and overt danger of Teflon Fuming Syndrome occurring. While the fumes generated do not pose a threat to human beings, they are, indeed deadly to such birds as parrots, macaws, cockatoos, etc. The fumes prevent the normal carbon dioxide-oxygen exchange to occur in the lung tissue, thereby smothering the bird from lack of oxygen. We recommend contacting a veterinarian for further information concerning the well being of your pet birds.
Calphalon Consumer Relations
There are two notable LIES (I’ll call them as I see them) in this statement. The first is that PTFE off gassing ONLY occurs when a pan is overheated or boiled dry. This is entirely untrue! The fumes are emitted at MUCH lower temperatures, and there are many grieving former parrot owners out there who will attest to this fact. The second is the claim that the fumes do not affect human beings. This is also untrue. While we will not drop dead within minutes of exposure like our birds do, we become sick with flu-like symptoms.
What can we learn from this? While a manufacturer might have to admit the components of their products, they are not obligated to be honest about the dangers they pose. Know this: if a product contains a non-stick coating, it can kill your bird.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.