by Heike Ewing Ott
I remember how disappointed I was to hear that the non-stick coating on cookware and other household items could be deadly to my birds. This article explains the why and how of teflon toxicity in a way that is easy to understand.
Webmaster Note: A large portion of this post wasn’t written by Heike, but I am including it because it contains good information and the original author is credited.
Got this on another list and found it to be clearer and more informative than most of what I’ve seen on this subject, so I decided to pass it along:
“Hi, I’m Kelly Greaser. I have an extensive background in chemistry and currently work as an environmental scientist, so I deal with chemicals and their dangers everyday. Simply keeping birds out of the kitchen doesn’t work with Teflon.
Teflon is PolyTetraFluoroEthylene (PTFE), a large, complex organic polymer. When it breaks down, it forms several different types of simpler, smaller, organic chemicals. These chemicals are gases and so travel in the air. The problem with organic chemicals is that they do not break down. That means that once the chemical is formed in your house, it is dangerous until it leaves your house.
Also, these chemicals are very toxic to birds. Birds do not have livers as sophisticated as ours. Birds’ livers cannot break down these chemicals in their bodies like ours can. Upon exposure to the chemicals, the liver operates for about five minutes, then shuts down. After the liver gives up, the chemical is no longer drawn away from the air sacs. Again, birds do not have lungs like we do. The air sacs cannot process these chemicals either, and so the bird literally suffocates in another 2-3 minutes.
Even a small concentration of these chemicals is sufficient to cause this shutdown. Because of this, it does not take much to create enough of the toxic chemicals, and unless you have an unbelievable air exhaust system in your house, the chemicals will reach your bird and kill it. I think it is important that people realize the nature of the chemicals, and especially the fact that they do not break down. The ONLY thing that I am aware of that will break down these chemicals before they get to your bird is an ozonator.”
I know of a lady that was baking cookies on a non-stick sheet and when she went upstairs she had 8 dead birds. No, teflon is not safe in any way shape or form. Kelly just got back from one of her yearly conferences and they are beginning to study the effects on humans now. That’s another file and would be too long to include here. If interested let me know and I’ll post it.
Kathy of KG KAT Aviary
Thanks, Kathy! If anyone’s interested in the human file, Kathy’s email addy is firstname.lastname@example.org. (Email address is apparently no longer active.)