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How Teflon Kills your Bird!

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.

I read an e-mail from Joyce Baum of Apr 10 about Teflon. She included a section from a flyer from DuPont stating:    "A simple rule of thumb is NEVER KEEP YOUR PETBIRD IN THE KITCHEN." This simple rule does not work.

Simply keeping birds out of the kitchen doesn't work with Teflon. Teflon is (PTFE), PolyTetraFluoroEthylene 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 breakdown. 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 breakdown 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 are 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 breakdown.

The ONLY thing that I am aware of that will breakdown these chemicals before they get to your bird is an ozonator.

Additional Imformation

This is Kelly again, Kathy's daughter. I had my yearly Hazardous Waste training this week and came across something I thought people should know.

We all agree that Teflon kills birds, but the following shows that there is concern that it may affect humans as well. The excerpt comes from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) 1996 edition of "Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents", page 44. The ACGIH is one of the groups that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rely on to test chemicals and give recommendations for exposure limits before the EPA and OSHA make their laws.

"Polytetrafluoroethylene decomposition products. Thermal decomposition of the fluorocarbon chain in air leads to the dormation of oxidized products containing carbon, fluorine, and oxygen. Because these products decompose in part by hydrolysis in alkaline solution, they can be quantitatively determined in air as fluoride to provide an index of exposure. No TLVs are recommended at this time, but air concentration should be controlled as low as possible." Translation: The first sentence states that Teflon breaks down with heating. The second sentence states how the air concentration may be measured, they just haven't quantified it yet. The third sentence states that since they don't know the potentially harmful concentration of Teflon breakdown products, KEEP THE CONCENTRATION IN AIR AS LOW AS POSSIBLE. This is a recommendation for HUMANS, not just birds. I sleep better at night knowing that my family and my birds are completely protected because we don't use Teflon at all.

This article reprinted with the express permission from the article owner Kelly Greaser!

Undate from Bird Talk Issue Oct. 2003

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