This article is intended to inform and warn all bird owners and those who spend any time at all with feathery companions, about the potential dangers of cooking and food preparation in the vicinity of the birds.
Whether your avian friends are little budgies or parakeets, or the largest and most majestic parrots, they can all succumb to the fatal, toxic condition caused by fumes from certain coatings used on a lot of cookware and stove top wares including frying pans, baking trays, pots and pans, and other kitchen utensils.
The coating used on many, many items of kitchen and dinnerware is a chemical coating called PTFE, used to make cookware “non-stick” so it is easy to clean. Proprietary brands such as Teflon are PTFE based. Be very aware when searching for new cookware, that most, if not all, “non-stick” cookware is PTFE based and can kill your precious birds under the right conditions.
Generally, when the PTFE coatings are heated on a stove top or cooker, they release fumes into the atmosphere. These are supposedly non-toxic for humans, and carry no odour, making it very insiduous. Unfortunately, these fumes affect the birds’ delicate respiratory systems and ultimately kill them in a rapid, fulminating manner.
PTFE coated cookware when scratched or damaged, is more likely to give off a lot of fumes. It is also very unstable when overheated or burnt. Bird owners should strongly consider giving away all their PTFE coated cookware, as even if it has not seemingly caused a problem in years, the day will come when it does.
What could you use as an alternative to PTFE coated cookware then? And how do you identify the coating?
The easy answer to identifying the coating is to read the label. If the manufacturer states it is PTFE free, then it will be safe to use around your birds, but you must make absolutely sure of this.
Ceramic coatings are a great alternative although more expensive than the PTFE dinnerware. They are stable and also provide non-stick qualities.
You can also use stainless steel, or copper, or enameled cookware, or even cast iron.While these may not be quite as easy to clean as the PTFE coated non-stick cookware, they are at least safe to use around your beloved birds. A good quality stainless pot can last a lifetime, and is a much better buy for you, your family, your birds and the environment than something which releases toxic fumes into the atmosphere and kills birds in a very short while – only taking 20 minutes in some cases.
It will help if your bird is not very close to the kitchen, but remember, gas travels easily and can permeate the house very quickly and kill your bird in a room outside of the food preparation area.
If you should see signs of acute distress in your bird, it is probably already too late to save them, but try to open all windows or rush outdoors with the bird before getting them to an avian vet if they survive the ordeal for long enough to get them to a vet.
Unfortunately, thousands of birds die in this needless, awful way every year. Existing legislation is insufficient to stop manufacturers making false claims and covering up the dangers of PTFE as round birds. And now, many other household items are PTFE coated, too – irons, hair straighteners, ironing board covers, even childrens clothes!! Be sure to check very carefully before buying any new kitchen items, your birds life could depend on it.