Breeder's of Eclectus Parrots,
Timneh African Grey, Great Billed
Parrot, Cape Parrot
Why Airborne Stuff Will
Kill Your Birds by Laurie E. Baker
This article is given out for free by Laurie E Baker (of
Feathered Follies) and is
reprinted here for public benefit.
In order to understand why airborne toxins affect your birds so much
more than humans or other vertebrates you need to understand the way
birds breathe. This article will cover the mechanics of the avian
respiratory system, the effects of airborne pollutants and some of the
biggest hidden dangers to birds.
The avian respiratory system is not like any other vertebrate and only
occupies a little over 2% of a bird's body volume. Unlike mammals, they
have no diaphragm to power breathing; instead they rely on muscles to
inhale & exhale. So if you pit pressure on the body of any bird they
will panic because their breathing has been impeded. When we inhale,
oxygen moves into the lungs and we exhale carbon dioxide. There is a
time during this cycle that we actually have no fresh oxygen. Birds have
a constant supply of oxygen because of a complex respiratory system.
The main function of their respiratory system is the same as ours: to
take in oxygen and move out carbon dioxide. The efficiency of this
system is crucial due to the high demands of maintaining flight. To meet
this demand, birds have developed a complex system that involves the
lungs and auxiliary air sacs, which are a complex anatomic feature not
seen in any other members of the animal kingdom. Almost every part of a
bird's body is in direct communication with the respiratory system. They
even have pneumatic bones, which are bones that are hollow & hold air.
Birds have a constant supply of oxygen which moderates the body's
temperature & allows activities. When the bird inhales, the air in the
lungs actually moves out & when it exhales the air moves into the lungs.
yes, this is just the opposite of us. The reason is because of a system
of thin walled balloons that are located in 9 places in the body called
It takes 2 cycles of inhaling & exhaling to complete air movement in
birds. The air sacs don't exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. This is
only done in the lungs. On the next cycle, the air in the lungs moves to
another air sac when inhaling and moves up and out the trachea on the
second exhale. This is a very basic explanation of a bird's breathing,
but you can see how taking in something that could harm the body makes
such a drastic reaction.
When a toxin is introduced to a bird's respiratory system it is very
quickly dispersed throughout the body. As stated earlier, air or a toxin
even penetrates bone directly and is then followed by what has been
transferred to the blood. The bird doesn't even stand a chance because
of the very system that allows them constant oxygen to maintain the high
energy demands of their bodies.
There are many, many fumes that can either make a bird very ill or kill
them. Some of these are nail polish remover, wet paint, gasoline,
ammonia cleaners that are sprayed onto surfaces, improperly diluted
Clorox, melted plastic, carbon monoxide, insecticides and pesticides,
cigarette and marijuana smoke, natural gas, hair dyes, and many many
more. I usually figure that if I can smell something, then the bird can
smell it 10x more than I do.
Probably the most deadly to us and the birds are non-stick coatings or
PTFEs. The first of these was produced by DuPont more than 50 years ago
and today essentially the same product is called by many names and used
on many, many products. DuPont has claimed for years that their coatings
do not emit hazardous chemicals with normal use, but EPA scientists have
now proven the perfluorooctanic acid, or PFOA, is absorbed by humans and
takes many years to clear the body without misuse of coated products.
Additionally, PFOA doesn't break down in the environment and causes
diseases in animals such as cancer, liver damage, and birth defects.
Scientists are currently testing other PFOA chemicals (such as telomers)
to determine the extent of PFOA produced when the chemical breaks down.
An example of products using telomers is the stain repellent coatings
that are used for carpeting and clothing. It has not been proven that
the levels of PFOA that humans absorb is dangerous, but at the same
time, there is a condition in humans called "polymer fume fever" caused
by these fumes.
DuPont claims that their coatings don't break down with normal use, but
deaths in birds prove this incorrect. Avian veterinarians have known for
decades that non-stick cookware produces fumes highly toxic to birds.
One veterinarian documented 296 deaths over a year caused by these toxic
I am going to cite some real facts as a closing to this article.
Feathered Follies has
always known non-stick surfaces were dangerous and I hope that anyone
who reads this will consider the use of non-stick products and the
health of themselves and their birds.
A non-stick cookie pan being used to make plastic Christmas ornaments
was heated in the oven. The family lost 20+ parakeets, including chicks.
55 birds died when water was burned off a hot pan.
A drip pan was preheated in preparation of Thanksgiving dinner; 14 birds
died within 15 minutes.
Yellow-Nape Amazon died after his owner cooked eggs on the stove for
them to share.
Grill plate used at normal temperatures on a gas stove killed two
Moluccan Cockatoos and a Lovebird.
Self-cleaning cycle was used on new Amana oven and one Macaw died.
Heat bulbs coated with Teflon installed in a zoo killed al the birds
they were supposed to warm.
Moluccan Cockatoo died after a carpet repair with glue and Teflon coated
Mexican Redhead Amazon killed by Stain safe coating on a new couch.
Skillet and electric space heater coated with PTFE killed a Ringneck
Parakeet, Amazon, and Blue & Gold Macaw.
It makes no sound
and has no smell. Polytetraflouethylene (Teflon fumes) is deadly for
your birds. A bird's size and lung capacity make him more sensitive to
the toxins in our environment. It was for this reason that coal miners
would take a canary down into the mines with them. If the bird became
sick or died, they knew it was dangerous for them to be in that mine.
is known by the brand name Teflon and most bird owners realize that
using products that have this coating cannot safely be used around
birds. However, there are many other brand names that are also
polytetraflouethylene. Some of these are: Silverstone, Fluron, Supra,
Excalibur, Greblon, Xylon, Duracote, Resistal, Autograph and T-Fal are
just a few. These coatings are used primarily to keep things from
The San Antonio
Zoo in Texas lost 21 birds in an outdoor aviary awhile back. Their death
was caused when the birds gathered by lights that the zoo had installed
so that the birds could warm themselves in an outdoor aviary. The bulbs
had been coated with Polytetraflouethylene. Phillips standard red
heating lamps have a coating of Teflon. The FDA now requires that bulbs
be given a Teflon coating as a shatter shield when used around food. If
you are planning to use a light to help warm a brooder or keep a sick
bird warm, look it over carefully and read the box to see if Teflon has
been used. If it does not have a box or does not say it has a special
coating, check the bulb itself. The Teflon coated ones have a bubbly or
cloudy surface. They may use one of the other brand names for
Polytetraflouethylene so remember that just because it doesn't say
Teflon it doesn't mean that it is safe to use around birds.
discovered in 1941. Basically this is a plastic. Teflon is the trademark
for a tetrafluoroeghylene resin with a high resistance to heat and
corrosive chemicals. It was originally used in wire insulation, cable
spacers, gaskets and in other applications in the chemical industry. It
then became popular as a non-stick coating for cook ware.
In 1951 the first
case of human suffering from tetrafluoroethylene problems was reported.
It produces flu like symptoms in humans. The tetrafluoroethylene lingers
long after the product has been removed. It can remain in carpeting and
draperies for some time.
Birds die an
extremely painful and agonizing death when exposed to these fumes. This
product may not kill all the birds at the same time. The toxins travel
on air currants. The currant can by-pass one bird and come in contact
with another. The fumes swirl on these air currants similar to the way
that smoke would. The bird does not have to be in the room where the
fumes originate as they can be carried into various parts of the house
on these air currants. Smaller birds can take less of the fumes than a
larger bird, but even a small amount of exposure can kill a large bird.
When the report
first circulated about Teflon causing bird deaths, it was thought that
very high heat was needed to release the deadly fumes. Now there are
reports that temperatures as low as 285 degrees can cause death to
emitting fumes from the start of heating. It does not have to be a high
temperature or for an extended length of time to cause death to your
bird. Small birds breathing these fumes for only a few seconds took as
long as 24 hours to die.
Many people think
that Teflon is only dangerous if the pan burns. This danger lurks in
other products besides cookware. These do not have to operate at a high
temperature to cause damage to your birds. I have listed some products
that use polytetraflouethylene. Not all of these use this coating nor
are these the only places that it is used. Carefully read all products
that you buy before you use them around your bird. If in doubt, call up
the manufacturer and asked what he has used in the product.
© 1995 Joanie Doss. This article originally
appeared in The Alaska Bird Club Newsletter. Please do not reprint
this article in any form without the written consent of Joanie
to 'Your New Eclectus Parrot'
By Michael Day, Health Correspondent
The coating on non-stick pans used in millions of kitchens throughout
the world has been linked to birth defects in humans and to the deaths
Chemical firms face claims that per fluorinated organic chemicals, such
as per fluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA), which is in Teflon - first used in
1945 - and oil- and water-resistant coatings, are a health threat.
Du Pont, which makes Teflon, has to answer accusations in the United
States this week that it had evidence about dangers posed by PFOA but
deliberately and illegally kept it secret. The US Environmental
Protection Agency says that Du Pont concealed its own 1981 research
showing that its pregnant workers were passing the chemical to their
In addition, in 1991, it failed to report evidence that the chemical had
contaminated the water supply to 12,000 people.
Du Pont has four days left to contest the charges - and a potential fine
of $300 million (£160 million).
Bucky Bailey is a member of one of eight families living near the Du
Pont factory in Parkersburg, West Virginia, who are suing the company
over the effects of PFOA.
His mother, Sue Bailey, was a factory worker exposed to PFOA while
pregnant. Mr Bailey was born with only one nostril and other facial
defects for which he has had 30 operations.
He has recently married, but does not intend to have children in case
they inherit his condition. He is now determined to hold Du Pont to
"I want them to admit that they made a mistake, to say they messed
up and that they're going to do everything they can to help," Mr
Dr Tim Kropp, the senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group,
an organisation in Washington DC, said: "The Environmental
Protection Agency should force Du Pont to pay a punishing fine such that
it sends out a signal to all chemical manufacturers that it is not
profitable to withhold critical information.
"The Teflon chemical PFOA, like other fluoro-chemicals, is in
people everywhere. It never breaks down in the environment and it's
toxic at or near levels found in humans."
Clifton Webb, Du Pont's director of public affairs, denied that his
company had acted incorrectly.
"We believe that we acted completely within the law and we have the
facts that will substantiate our position," he said. Mr Webb added
that despite evidence of exposure in the womb, and of water
contamination, there was no evidence that actual harm resulted from PFOA
exposure and so the company was not legally bound to release its
"We stuck to the letter of the law," he said. "We have
had 50 years of experience with PFOA and none of that experience
suggests harmful effects resulting from exposure."
A separate health concern over Teflon is that when non-stick pans are
overheated they release fumes that cause "Teflon flu". Mr Webb
said that the condition, which causes aches and chills, was
"temporary and soon passes".
Pet birds, however, are easily killed by the fumes. Retief Ehlers, a
veterinary surgeon in London with a special interest in exotic birds,
said: "Small birds such as budgies, finches and cockatiels are
particularly at risk."
Mr Webb said that the kitchen was "not a place to have birds
because they have very sensitive respiratory systems". He also said
that the temperatures required to overheat Teflon pans would burn food,
the fumes from which could also harm pet birds and humans.
Karine Pellaumail, a spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth, said:
"There are real concerns about the safety of these chemicals and,
like all substances that persist in the human body and the environment,
we would like to see them all phased out."
Campaigners anticipate resistance to any attempt to ban per fluorinated
polymers. Their unusual combination of properties - water and oil
resistance and near-imperviousness to heat - have resulted in their use
in many consumer products and in a host of industrial settings.
In Britain, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
plans to restrict their use.
Alun Michael, an environment minister, said that the chemicals
represented "a real and significant risk to the population and
environment in the UK". He has indicated that Britain will act
unilaterally in Europe by banning one chemical of the class, per
fluorooctane sulphonate, in line with the US.
The chemical company 3M withdrew all of its Scotch guard products
containing the chemical in 2000 after pressure from the US Environmental
A spokesman for Defra said that there were also concerns about the PFOA
used in Teflon and that it would study the results of a US safety
One authority on per fluorinated polymers, Dr Jonathan Martin of Toronto
University, said he considered the PFOA in Teflon to be potentially as
harmful as the banned per fluorooctane sulphonate.
"It's not true that risks are less. PFOA has been recognised as a
rat carcinogen for decades," he said.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004
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