Bird Teflon dangers you didn’t know & other household perils

cockatiel with gas mask sitting on alarm clock with nuclear warning face
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 One of the first things new caged bird keepers learn is that Teflon is bad for your bird which is pretty well-known. The statement “I threw out all my Teflon cookware before I brought my bird home” can be found on the internet as often as Lady Gaga changes hairstyles.
 
The potential danger of Teflon does go beyond cookware so I wanted to give you a little background
 

 The plastic PTFE was discovered in 1941. Tetrafluoroeghylene has a fun name – Teflon (Chicago is filled with “Teflon” politicians) is a resin that resists caustic chemicals in high heat. You can’t hear it, you can’t smell it but it’s a killer of caged birds

I recently ran across the mention of a Teflon “bird mishap” where 21 birds were lost at the San Antonio zoo – a zoo that installed heat lamp bulbs coated with Teflon. When the birds gathered around the Teflon coated heat lamp bulbs to stay warm, they died.
 
sales pitch: if you want to use a bulb to warm your bird we recommend a no-light infra-red bulb
 
An agonizing death will befall a bird who ingests Teflon. The fumes dance on air currents and are highly focused and may affect one bird but not another, but the Fumes do travel and the bird does not have to be in the same room as the Teflon fumes to succumb to them.
full set of stainless steel cookware bought second hand for about $50
 It’s been reported that Teflon heated as low as 285° will off gas & can kill a bird.
 
Teflon is found in places you never think of like these items that permeate our daily lives (just like Java script – it’s found everywhere) – this from DuPont’s website:
 
Apparel & Accessories – DuPont™ Teflon® fabric protector helps keep garments looking new longer, no matter what life throws at them.
 
Contract & Technical Fabrics – Whether in a restaurant, hotel, office or other demanding location, fabrics treated with DuPont™ Teflon® (like awnings and patio umbrellas) fabric protector outsmart stains by fending off unsightly splashes and spots, day after day, in a variety of applications.
 
Home & Garden Products – DuPont™ Teflon® Advanced is a carpet protector that uses DuPont technology to provide more repellency than any other carpet protector. It repels most liquids, allowing spills to be removed before staining and wicking can occur.
 Products made with Teflon® Home Fashions & Residential Furnishings like DuPont™ Teflon® fabric protector improves a variety of fabrics around the home including upholstery, bedding, napery, and outdoor furniture.
 
Prespray Lawn Mower Protectant – DuPont says it will keep your lawn equipment looking new by using Clean Machine® Mower Nonstick Protectant with DuPont™ Teflon® surface protector.
 
Eyeglasses – Sola Lens Coating – Teflon® EasyCare eyeglass lens coating was developed by Carl Zeiss Vision, a world leader in eyeglass lenses, in association with DuPont.
 
Teflon® fluoropolymer technology is used in HEAD® Tennis Racquets
 
Teflon® fluoropolymer technology is used for lubricants for cycling Finish Line Lubricants for Cycling Race proven on the road and off since 1988 bicycle ball bearing grease prevents wear and distortion.
 
Zardoz® NotWax® provides the sensation of effortlessly gliding through any snow condition. Just wipe NotWax® on your ski or snowboard base and go.
 
Okay so we know you are careful not to take your bird when you go skiing, play tennis, mow the lawn, ride a bicycle, wear eyeglasses (they do like to grab on to them), eat out at restaurants and you have no carpet in your home – I get it – you like to play it safe.
 
But ask yourself – “self, do I have any of the Teflon coated instruments of destruction, in my home mitchr listed below – like”
 
Bread makers
Broiler pans
Coffeemakers
Corkscrews
Crockpots
Deep fryers
Electric skillets
Oven drip pans
Stovetop burners
Griddles
Hair Dryers
Heat lamps
Hot air popcorn popper’s
Ironing board covers
Lollipop molds
Many cooking utensils
Never stick stainless steel
Nonstick gingerbread molds
Nonstick rolling pins
Pizza pans
Portable heaters
Roasters
Sole plates on irons
Stockpots
Tortilla presses
Waffle makers
Woks
You’ve been warned.
 
What got me thinking about the whole Teflon thing was when Jo-Anne wrote to ask if she should be concerned about Teflon in humidifiers. Here’s my response about humidifiers and their dangers to birds:
 
Hi Jo-Anne
 
Keep in mind there is not a lot of Teflon in household humidifiers. It’s in warming humidifiers like the Vick’s warm mist humidifier which does contain Teflon on the water heater.
 
While most studies indicate that PTFEs & PFOAs offgas at temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit, there is information that some formulations will offgas between 285 degrees and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t think Teflon is your problem with a (non-warming) household humidifier.
 
The problem with humidifiers is allowing mold to grow on the filter, then mold gets spewed out with the moist air causing problems like Aspergillosis which is a the disease of the lungs that birds get triggered by fungus which is found most everywhere in the environment.
 
Humidifiers form the the perfect storm for the production and transmission of Aspergillosis producing fungus because fungus loves warm moist environments and we’re not talking about Jamaica.
 
Usually it’s not harmful to birds unless the bird’s immune system is compromised by things like bacterial infections of the mouth from drinking poop water, brooding activities like egg laying and feather molting which all three can occur simultaneously as we learned from our cockatiel Popcorn.
 
Those 3 issues reduce the birds immune system which then puts the bird in harms way for fungal infection. Which begs the question how do you know if your bird has Aspergillosis? 
 
Heavy breathing, a loss of appetite and lots of drinking and pooping of a bluish coloration of mucus are signs of acute Aspergillosis which can and does lead to death
 
Chronic Aspergillosis is harder to detect because the symptoms might not manifest themselves too rapidly. The fungal spores flow through the birds complete system via the bloodstream and then most of the major organs will get affected.
 
This is a disease that’s very hard to detect even for a veterinarian. It can be treated with surgery to remove easy to reach lesions and there are antifungal drugs available.
 
So getting back to your original question – Make sure your humidifier is sized proportionately for the room, home or apartment it’s going in. More importantly use an additive to eliminate fungus on the filter and watch the filter for any discoloration like fungal spores.
 
Replace the filter immediately if any (fungal spores, dark spots) are spotted. The humidifier will help keep your birds skin moister just like yours and mine. Humidifiers are not inherently bad. You just need to be on task about the mold thing.
 
We know you pay attention to your cage birds keeper’s to do list which is making sure food and water are clean, the newspaper in the cage is changed regularly and all the toys, perches and accessories are sanitized thoroughly once a month with an enzymatic cleaner like poop off and bird safe sanitizer like Pet Focus or a handheld steamer.
 
Learn how to select the right air purifier for your bird here
 
Hope that helps
 
written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing