Scented Candles Kill Pet Birds!
Certified Avian Specialist
President: Beakers Parrot Society
Iowa State Coordinator / American Federation of Aviculture
Lost: One Peach-faced Lovebird; One Rare Lutino Lovebird; One Quaker Parrot.
Birds valued at over $400.00.
Kenny '&' Judy Ford, of Missouri Valley, Iowa, went out and purchased several
fragrances of GLADE® CANDLE SCENTS and one Walmart brand scented candle.
Kenny thought they would freshen their home during the long winter months
without fresh air. The candles were burned frequently for 2 days before
their first lovebird died. The second lovebird died later that evening. The
Quaker was acting strangely the third day and by that afternoon, was also dead.
Kenny and Judy were devastated at the lost of their pets. The symptoms were
shakiness/trembling, inability to perch, then death. The time between the
first sign of shakiness and death was a matter of a couple to a few hours.
The candles had not been burned since the night before when the Quaker "Bob"
succumbed in the morning.
Kenny and Judy loved their pets like children. Bob, the Quaker, was their
pride and joy. Every time Kenny would come out to my store, he would tell me
of all the new things Bob had learned to do and say. He was one really proud
So, I began to make some phone calls. I called several different divisions
of the company whose candles the couple had purchased. I spoke with Lee
Langsley, in the medical issues department, of SC Johnson Wax. He gave me
some other numbers to contact. No one seemed to have any answers. Finally, I
was contacted by Carey Manderfield, senior toxicologist, at SC Johnson Wax.
From this conversation, I found that there was no one named Lee Langsley
associated with the company. The person in the Medical Issues department who
gave me this name had given me a phony name. There is, however, a person in
the department named Lee Swanson, I was told.
I explained the situation to Mr. Manderfield. We spoke at length about
bird's delicate respiratory systems and the validity of the claim. Mr. and
Mrs. Ford had already checked into the possibility of Carbon Monoxide
poisoning, which seemed to be the only other possibility of why the birds
had died so quickly. Mr. Manderfield did confess that they have not tested
the products in question with birds. Mr. Manderfield promised to get back to
me, with a response from the company, within a week. It's been almost 2
weeks and I've yet to hear from the company in any form.
I also contacted a friend in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, Gillian Willis, who is
a toxicologist, about the products being used in the Ford's home. Although
it doesn't pertain to the candles specifically, the information I received
is quite pertinent. The candles have a higher concentration of the volatile
(essential) oils than the plug-ins contain and it is released into the
atmosphere much more quickly. Ms. Willis was quite helpful and provided the
following information. :
Glade Plug-ins contain:
Fragrances = 90%
Thickeners 3 - 6%
"The fragrances are a mixture of volatile (essential) oils. The
majority of these oils can cause either stimulation or depression of
the central nervous system, as well as possible irritation to the
eyes, nose and upper respiratory tract, depending on the oil and
concentration used. Birds are very susceptible to the effects of
inhaled volatile toxins, including essential oils.
I have a report on file of a woman who experienced marked
respiratory tract irritation caused by excessive use of Glade
Plug-ins in her home "to keep it smelling fresh."
More recently, I was consulted on a case involving two cockatiels
that presented to my avian vets. One bird had been lethargic for a
few days and was brought into the clinic for assessment. The owners
brought in it's mate to keep it company during hospitalization. Over
a period of hours, both birds became progressively lethargic, could
not stand, developed hyperventilation and respiratory distress.
Despite aggressive intensive care treatment, both birds died within a
minute of one another, within 24 hours of presentation to the
clinic. Necropsy revealed congestion in the lungs. There were no
other significant findings.
Heavy metal poisoning was considered and ruled out
radiographically. After an extensive investigation into the possible
cause of death in the two birds, (one being apparently healthy prior
to being brought into the clinic) the cause of death was likely due
to exposure, during transport in the motor vehicle, to TWO
pine-scented impregnated paper air fresheners. The length of
exposure was approximately one hour, in a closed vehicle. Clinical
manifestations in both birds were consistent with pine oil
The take-home message is that any volatile oil (fragrance) has the
potential for causing illness and possible death in birds.
Obviously, the concentration in a product and length of exposure are
factors to be considered. Products containing a high concentration
of volatile oils, as in Glade Plug-Ins, should be avoided completely."
The Glade candles that were involved in the 3 day period, at the Ford's
home, were Vanilla, Peach, Potpourri, Cinnamon and one Walmart brand scented
candle, Spiced Apple.
As I mentioned earlier, Judy and Kenny have ruled out every other
possibility. They performed Carbon Monoxide checks all over their house and
it showed nothing, until they lit one of the candles and sat it next to the
tester for a few minutes. The indicator went into the lethal range. Now, if
it was the Carbon Monoxide level that killed the birds, or the volatile
essential oil fumes, we can't be 100% sure. I can attest to the fact that
the birds were in apparent good health before this situation occurred. The
birds were all in separate rooms when they succumbed. There was a candle
burning at different times in all of the rooms, so there is not one specific
fragrance that could have been at fault.
What I expected from my phone calls, was the possibility of getting warning
labels displayed on the various products that could be causing harm to, or
the death of, our pet birds. I have had no response, as promised, from the
company. So, I must assume that they have no plans to attach warning labels
to thier products at this time and that they are not sharing our serious
Many manufacturers have started making their cleaning products 'more
pleasing' to the senses by including these (fragrances) essential oils.
The bottom line is to protect yourself and be aware of the possible hazard
these products could cause to the health of your pet birds. Volatile
(essential) oils are in many products that we frequently use in our homes.
Monica Sudds© 1997
reprinted with permission
This is the company who makes the candles, if anyone would like to write.
"Questions? Comments? Call 1-800-558-5252 Weekdays 9-9 EST"
Or write Helen Johnson
SC Johnson '&' Sons, INC,
Racine, Wi 53403-2236
This is the information that appears on the packaging.
Failure to follow instuctions could result in fire hazard or
personal injury. Place lit candle on heat resistant surface. Never leave
lit candle unattended. Keep out of drafts. Do not move while lit, or
until wax hardens. Use caution when extinguishing. Trim wick to 1/4"
before using. Keep free of foreigh objects. Stop use when 1/4" of wax
remains. Do not burn more than 4 hours. Keep out of reach of children.
For indoor use only.