PTFE FUMES KILL
FAMILY'S PET BIRDS!
The following article is from Mid-American Cage Bird Club's newsletter
(Reprinted with permission)
written by Mrs. Carol Shively.
I received a truly heartbreaking call a couple of weeks ago from a very nice lady and a true
bird lover named Dawn Costello. Dawn lives near New Virginia, Iowa, which makes her a
neighbor of mine, although so far we have not met. Dawn's story is probably the most
important of the (product name I can't use anymore) tragedies that has come to my attention, because her birds died even
though she didn't make any mistakes.
Most of us know by now that (product name I can't use anymore), when heated over approximately 500 degrees will emit
fumes that will kill birds. Dawn knew this too, and, like me, she used an electric
(product name I can't use anymore) skillet
with a heat control and never set the control over 300 degrees. There have been some reports
of (product name I can't use anymore) related bird deaths in which the temperature of the cooking surface was not
overheated but the surface was old and scarred and apparently released fumes through the
marred area. This did not apply in Dawn's case since the cooking surface of her skillet was in
Dawn's family was preparing for dinner one evening using the electric skillet. An electric
space heater was also running in the area since it was a chilly evening. (Store that; it's
important). She then noticed that her Ringneck was not visible in his cage. She had seen him
playing there just 10 minutes before but she checked anyway just to make sure he was still in
the cage and hadn't gotten out. She was horrified to find the bird lying dead on the floor of the
cage. A moment later she heard a scream from a daughter in another room and rushed there to
find her two Amazons dead. She then ran to her Blue and Gold Macaw's cage to find that bird
nearly dead. (Tears are streaming down my face as I write this because, like many of you, I
can put myself in Dawn's position. She lost half a dozen beloved members of her family in the
space of 10 minutes.) She shut off the (product name I can't use anymore) skillet (but not the electric heater) and made
several frantic calls for help. Local vets were not available (why does that not surprise me?),
but she was soon in contact with a national animal poison control center. An out-of-state avian
vet returned the call about the same time the Blue and Gold went into convulsions. The vet
immediately asked about (product name I can't use anymore) and Dawn told him they had been using an electric skillet, but
it was in good condition and on low heat. He then asked if there was an electric space heater
running in the area. When told there was, he said, "Shut it off quick!"
ACCORDING TO THIS VET, (product name I can't use anymore) IS BEING USED IN MORE AND MORE
APPLIANCES FOR THE HOME. IN ADDITION TO SKILLETS AND ELECTRIC
HEATERS, IT IS ALSO FOUND IN IRONS, HAIR DRYERS AND APPROXIMATELY 20
The vet told Dawn that probably a small amount of fumes was leaking from the skillet and
coupled with what was spilling from the heater,it was sufficient to kill her birds. The Blue and
Gold was succumbed within a few minutes. Dawn has had the (product name I can't use anymore)
diagnosis confirmed by
Dr. Riordan who did necropsies on all the birds. He told her that even if she had been across
the street from a vet, nothing could have saved her Macaw. Apparently the fumes cause
hemorrhaging in the lungs and air sacs and once the symptoms are evident, it is usually too
Each of us needs to inform every bird owner we come in contact with of this danger, and Dawn
and I are launching a campaign to compel (product name I can't use anymore) manufacturers to label all items that contain
(product name I can't use anymore). We are hoping to get a story on one of the news shows and an article in the paper as
well. You can bet that if dogs were dropping dead in front of electric heaters,it would be all
over the papers and TV.
Many of us have used electric heaters and hair dryers around our birds for years with no ill
effects, so it is my guess the (product name I can't use anymore) is a fairly recent addition.
IF YOU BUY ANY ELECTRIC
APPLIANCE AT ALL THAT YOU ARE GOING TO USE IN THE SAME HOUSE WITH
YOUR BIRDS, I SUGGEST YOU CALL THE MANUFACTURER AND FIND OUT IF IT
CONTAINS (product name I can't use anymore).
(product name I can't use anymore) UPDATE
As most of you know, there has been a lot of talk lately about the effects of noxious
emanations from cookware and other appliances which are harmful and/or deadly to birds. An
article in a recent bird magazine documented an incident in which birds were killed by the
fumes released from the cleaning cycle of a self- cleaning oven.
Bird club member, Jerry Knapp, decided he would find out just how easy or difficult it would be
to contact the manufacturer directly and ask about the safety of an appliance. He contacted
manufacturers of self-cleaning kitchen ranges. I have here the result of Jerry's research. It is
Before I go further I want to remind you, as I had to remind myself, that one individual does
not make up the whole of an organization. If different people had answered the telephones,
maybe the responses would have been different.
With that in mind ......
Jerry wrote down his statement so he would not forget anything, and would make the same
request of each company. This is his statement:
"My name is Jerry Knapp. I belong to a bird club and I am doing some research to establish if
it is safe to operate a stove with a self-cleaning oven in a household that includes caged birds.
Could you please connect me with the person who would be able to answer my questions?"
The companies Jerry contacted were: Whirlpool, Roper, Amana, G. E., and Magic Chef.
The Whirlpool folks were the most responsive. Their operator told Jerry that she owned a
Macaw named Jesse. Even though she said there was no individual with whom Jerry could
speak, she at least volunteered to send him the warning paper that is packed with each stove
and which details dangers of self- cleaning ovens. Jerry received the paper by mail shortly
thereafter, but birds are not mentioned specifically. The paper does state that "small amounts
of formaldehyde and carbon monoxide are given off during the self- clean cycle from fiberglass
insulation and the decomposition of food. Significant exposure to these substances can cause
cancer or reproductive harm. Exposure can be minimized by venting with a hood or open
window and wiping out excess food spills prior to self-cleaning."
Jerry left a message on the phone mail, but his call was never returned.
Jerry spoke with customer service and they assured him they would send an answer within 10
working days. Guess what. It never arrived.
Jerry spoke with a person who seemed very defensive and said that everyone should realize
that anytime you heat something to the point that it will remove waste you will receive both
toxic and non-toxic fumes. He stated that oven cleaners you buy in stores give off more
harmful fumes than self-cleaning ovens. (He does have a good point there.) He went on to say
that his company was not responsible for looking after the safety of every creature on the
earth and that their efforts were directed towards humans. He concluded with, "We have
enough trouble complying with the Federal Government that we don't have the time or
resources to deal with you P.E.T.A. people."
When Jerry phoned Magic Chef, he was told it was a division of Maytag which was owned by
Maicor. He then phoned Maicor and was transferred to a person in customer service who said
Jerry should speak to the person at the testing laboratory except the person in the testing
laboratory was Chinese and didn't speak English. Jerry said that was okay because a member
of Jerry's family is married to a Chinese person who would be glad to get on another phone
and translate. At this point, the customer service representative said someone would return
the call later. Eventually Carl Jacobson, head of the testing lab, called. (We don't know what
became of the Chinese man). Mr. Jacobson said he would have Jay Rosenfield contact Jerry,
but that Mr. Rosenfield was currently in court. When Mr. Rosenfield phoned back he said he
would prefer to speak with Jerry's attorney instead of Jerry because it was so much easier
I think it is ridiculous for any major company to give a potential consumer the kind of
run-around that most of them gave Jerry. It is interesting to note that the only company that
was at all straightforward was Whirlpool, the company where the operator was a bird owner
MORE (product name I can't use anymore) UPDATE:
Dawn Costello's story is particularly important because the fumes emanated not only from her
(product name I can't use anymore)- coated electric skillet but from an electric heater that she was using in her home.
Dawn's skillet was not being used at high heat and the surface was not scarred.
The manufacturer of (product name I can't use anymore) is Dupont Company, which has known about the danger of
(product name I can't use anymore) fumes to pet birds for many years, yet they have not seen fit to add a warning label to their
cookware. After discussing this situation at a bird club meeting following the death of Dawn's
birds, it was suggested we push for warning labels to accompany all appliances that contain
(product name I can't use anymore). These labels would state specifically that under certain fairly common conditions, the
material becomes deadly to pet birds. The problem with this plan is that most of the non-stick
surfaces are deadly even when they are made by Silverstone or some other manufacturer.
Nevertheless, Dupont is a good place to start. Their address follows:
E. I. Dupont Co., Inc.
1007 Market St.
Wilmington, Delaware 19898
Attention: Deborah Goodge
Remember to make your letter polite and state clearly what action you want them to take.
Reprints of our article about Dawn's tragedy are appearing in newsletters around the country,
and hopefully this recognition will save someone else the heartache that Dawn Costello went
through. Remember to pass the word. Carol Shively has contacted Bird Talk Magazine and
they have suggested we prepare a letter for their Back Talk column in which we include the
addresses where people can write to request that companies include warning labels. I have
also received information from a club member that ECKO bakeware is a different material and
is NOT dangerous to birds, but I have not had the opportunity to verify this with the
manufacturer as yet. (I think this is a great idea, and hope all of you will help with this lobby.
The lungs of Eclectus, and other parrot species as well, are about as big as my thumbnail and
I'm certain they are quite delicate. Please educate yourself concerning toxicities for the safety
of our special friends. CB )
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