The Dangers of Teflon

When we welcome a new bird into our home, it is our responsibility to ensure that they are kept safe from any potential dangers that may exist.  A bird’s respiratory system is extremely sensitive and, due to their increased metabolic rate, the rate of oxygen that is transferred into their bloodstream is much higher than that of an average animal.  For most households, this means removing from our home potentially toxic or dangerous items that could prove fatal to our birds.  Some of these items can be easily replaced with safe alternatives, while others should be avoided altogether.

One of the most common illnesses that birds experience in captivity is known as “Teflon Toxicity.”  This refers to exposure from the fumes of a product that is coated with PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene), a chemical that makes up the “non-stick” coating, along with a binding agent that is used to adhere the nonstick coating to the product, called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).   According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the toxins that can cause this illness represents one of five common toxins that can harm birds in the average household.  Most often this occurs when a bird is present while food is being prepared in a non-stick pot or pan.  Fumes are not only released when the product is burned, but also when heated to a certain degree.  Symptoms of Teflon toxicity are usually quick to arise and, unfortunately, often result in death.  Products that are coated with PTFE and contain PFOA should never be used in the same household as a bird.  Below are some safe alternatives to non-stick cookware:

  • Glass
  • Ceramic
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Stainless steel
  • Cast iron

It’s important to note that pots and pans are not the only products that can contain PTFE (or PFOA), so reading labels and triple checking product descriptions are vital in keeping informed about the safety of your pet. Teflon is often found hiding in products like toaster ovens, hair dryers, ironing boards and space heaters, just to name a few.  As part of our adoption requirements, we will not allow a bird to be placed in a home that uses any of these products because of the increased risks these products pose to our feathered companions.  We encourage potential adopters to research this topic thoroughly before deciding whether or not a bird would be a good fit for their home.