The Silent Killer

It strikes again.  It kills 100%.  It doesn't discriminate between small canaries or an amazon or a cockatoo or any size bird in-between.  It quietly deals death to every single bird in the home.  All 13 birds are dead within minutes and the pain in the owner's heart may never heal after this loss.  Her babies, her sweet sweet babies.  She has shared her home with rescued birds for over 30 years and I've known her for quite a few of those years.  A horrible accident that once again happed only a week ago because of PTFE.

What is PTFE you ask?  PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene and it is one of, if not the most, insidious deadly danger to your bird.

It's called a silent killer because you can't smell it, you can't detect it with a monitoring device, you will never know it's killing your bird until it's too late to do anything to save your precious baby.  It simply spreads the insidious odorless fumes throughout your home without you knowing it.  Even a closed door will not keep it out, and it can be 100% guaranteed death for your bird in almost all situations.

In birds this killer is called "Teflon toxicosis" which causes the lungs of the exposed bird to this toxin to quickly begin to hemorrhage and fill with bloody fluids causing the bird to suffocate within minutes.  Death by PTFE happens quickly, so quickly you will not have time to go for help.

It goes by many names but the most recognized ones are Teflon, Silverstone, Stainmaster, and other well known brand names.  If anything you purchase has the wording of "non-stick" anywhere on the label, then it is a very high probability that it contains this chemical.  It is hidden in self-cleaning ovens, ironing board covers and irons, some heat lamps, space heaters, and many many other (way too many) common household products.

Virtually all "non-stick" cookware and drip-pans which can be purchased under many different manufacturer's names, contain PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) and are extremely deadly to the lives of our birds. Any brand of cookware you are considering which states "non-stick" should immediately send up a warning flag to you as it most probably contains the very deadly PTFE.  Your brain should be screaming "DANGER DANGER" at the mere mention of the those words "non-stick".  Yes, I know there are some new brands on the market that claim they contain nothing like PTFE.  Maybe they don't, but maybe it's just called something new.  I'll stick to my cast iron and stainless steel thank you.

Unless the manufacturer of the product in question can state in writing it does not contain any form of PTFE, and can explain exactly how it is indeed a non-stick product, and can guarantee that it will not harm your bird, you would be safer to assume it does in fact contain deadly PTFE or something just as deadly.

It has now been proven that these products do not have to even overheat to emit the odorless fumes containing PTFE which are lethal to birds and can kill within minutes. So never assume you are safe because you never leave pans on the stove to overheat.  Tell that to the owner whose 18 year old African Grey died suddenly while she was standing nearby in the kitchen cooking dinner.  Nothing there was overheating when she heard the bird fall from his perch.  Tell it to a friend who went upstairs after dinner to find her beautiful 6 year old female Eclectus dead in the bottom of her cage and Necropsy confirmed death by Teflon poisoning from a pan she used as directed in the oven that evening.

My first encounter with the horrors of this silent killer was many years ago when death of a friend's birds occurred when she innocently used a new drip pan to broil some steaks in her oven.  Several budgies in a room off the kitchen with a door shut between all died as well as several cockatiels in an adjoining dining room. If you had been the one instead of me who reached into each cage to gently remove a small body from the bottom of the cage after the incident, then you would also know first hand the horror of this chemical.  The only bird to survive was an amazon in a back bedroom with the door closed and a window open. He spent several days in the hospital but did survive the ordeal. Nothing can describe the horror the owner went through losing her beloved birds.

Another good friend lost several budgies and her Indian Ringneck simply cooking dinner using her oven newly installed 2 months earlier.  She was careful not to use teflon or other non-stick cookware that might be dangerous.  She had no idea the lurking danger was built into her new oven.

Whatever cooking or baking utensils you use, rooms should be well ventilated when cooking is in progress. Ventilate the bird's room or area as well as the kitchen. Fumes will travel within your home. Use a range hood, ventilated to the outdoors when you are cooking.

Stainless steel or cast iron cookware is an easily cleaned alternative to pots and pans coated with non-stick surfaces.   Self-cleaning ovens should only be set to clean when all birds have been safely removed from the home.

What can we do?  We can spread the information whenever and wherever we can.  We must be pro-active in reading labels carefully, asking questions of sales people and retailers, and contacting manufacturers with questions when necessary.   We may not be able to eliminate 100% of everything that contains this dangerous chemical, but by being careful, we can help keep our birds and ourselves as safe as possible until manufacturers own up to the dangers and care more about the customer than their profit.

It makes me so sad when the danger is discussed and I hear someone say that they use cookware or other items with this dangerous coating and they have never had a problem.  They boldly claim they never leave a pan or pot or whatever unwatched so that "accident" could not happen to them.  All I can think is well,


My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a bird because of this horrible silent killer irregardless of whether is was an accident, or lack of knowledge, or even because someone thought it would never happen to them. 

Some More Reading on this Silent Killer of Birds:

Top Ten Dangers

YouTube video

Teflon Dangers Articles

Canaries in the Kitchen

Teflon Toxicosis

Teflon Making you Sick?

Nonstick Cookware can Kill

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