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April 3, 2003

PFCs: Global Contaminants: Teflon and other non-stick pans kill birds

April 2003

Bird enthusiasts and veterinarians have known for decades that Teflon-coated and other non-stick cookware, if heated to high temperatures, is acutely toxic to birds. The peer-reviewed literature contains numerous reports of bird deaths linked to the use of Teflon and other non-stick pans and appliances in the home, beginning about 30 years ago. The birds die abruptly, usually shortly after new non-stick pans are heated for the first time. The ubiquity of the deaths has spurred mention of the problem on at least 100 websites devoted to the care of pet birds.

In 1975, in one of the early peer-reviewed articles on bird deaths, the authors describe the deaths of five pet birds following the owner heating a non-stick (PTFE-coated) pan:

“Five cocatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) died within 30 minutes following exposure to fumes from a frying pan coated with the "non-stick" plastic polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) that had accidentally overheated. Within an hour the owner developed symptoms of "polymer fume fever" but recovered in the next 24 hours. Clinical signs and post mortem lesions of the cockatiels are described and reference is made to the unusual susceptibility of parakeets to the pyrolysis products of frying pans coated with PTFE.” [1]

Bird deaths related to nonstick coatings are not restricted to exotic species in the home. A recent article recounts that hours after moving 2400 broiler chicks to a research warehouse at University of Columbia-Missouri, veterinarians noticed that substantial numbers of chicks were dying. Four percent of the chicks died in the first four hours, and within 72 hours more than half of the chicks were dead. After investigating the possibility of many common gas toxicants, scientists traced the deaths to lightbulbs coated with the Teflon chemical PTFE: “Further investigation revealed that the only change in management practice in this facility prior to the onset of the severe mortality problem was the replacement of 48 heat lamp bulbs (one for each pen). The new heat lamp bulbs were polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coated. PTFE gas intoxication has been reported in several exotic avian species, but this intoxication has not been previously reported in a poultry flock.” [2].

Scientists have not identified the particular offgas compound from Teflon and other nonstick pans and other kitchen equipment that is responsible for the bird deaths, but among the many chemicals that have been measured in the air when nonstick pans are heated are PFOA and other gases that scientists consider highly toxic [3].


  1. Blandford TB, Seamon PJ, Hughes R, Pattison M, Wilderspin MP. 1975. A case of polytetrafluoroethylene poisoning in cockatiels accompanied by polymer fume fever in the owner. Vet Rec 1975 Feb 22;96(8):175-8.
  2. Boucher M, Ehmler TJ, Bermudez AJ. 2000. Polytetrafluoroethylene gas intoxication in broiler chickens. Avian Dis 2000 Apr-Jun;44(2):449-53.
  3. Ellis DA, Mabury SA, Martin JW, Muir DC. 2001. Thermolysis of fluoropolymers as a potential source of halogenated organic acids in the environment. Nature 2001 Jul 19;412(6844):321-4.


Related websites:

Description: Up At Six is a very comprehensive pet bird care website. Lists common household hazards and provides a search engine for research by topic or keywords. Also links to avian associations, aviaries, sanctuaries, shopping, online chat groups, and many other bird-related issues.

Association of Avian Veterinarians: Basic Bird Care
Description: Association of Avian Veterinarians promotes avian medicine and stewardship. Become a member, find an avian vet, learn about AAV programs and policy statements. article: Dangers in the Kitchen
Description: offers access to a wealth of medical and wellness pet information. Features an archive of more than 1350 pet-related articles searchable through a user-friendly database.

The National Cockatiel Society: General Bird Care
Description: The official website of the National Cockatiel Society. Features a question and answer bulletin board with scheduled chats and “reading rooms” of cockatiel-related articles. Housing/Feeding Birds
Description: Planet Pets serves the public by finding, evaluating, selecting, organizing, and offering quality pet-related information and resources. Features a free online newsletter, kids korner, ask an expert, links to services.

Birds and More
Health issues and
Protecting birds from toxic fumes
Description: Online store for birds and their owners. Includes health tips and general care for your bird.

TalkToTheVet - Caged Bird Housing Considerations
Description: Talk To The Vet is an online veterinarian consultation service. Links to vets, free newsletter, pet-specific articles, etc.

Bird Crazy - Safety Guide for Plants and Poisons
Description: Bird Crazy is an Online aviary based in San Diego, CA. Comprehensive list of poisonous plants and household poisons and well as a list of safe plants.

Birds N' Ways eZine
Description: Guide to parrots and other exotic pet birds. Offers dozens of links to shopping, chatting, information and miscellaneous bird-related sites. Offers access to thousands of articles searchable by keyword, topic, author and website.

ASPCA - Managing Pet Bird Toxicoses
Description: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals exists to promote humane principles, prevent cruelty and alleviate fear, pain and suffering in animals. Use the search engine (search “PTFE”) to find a downloadable report “Managing Pet Bird Toxicoses”.

Additional Links:

Starling Talk

Parrot Parrot

Exotic Pet Vet



Pet Bird Report

The Parrot Chronicles

Feather Care Aviary

The Parrot Society of Australia

Stanley’s Quakerville

Lafeber Company

The Aviary

Avitec Exotic Birds

Those Majestic Macaws!

Taking Care Of Your New Bird

Lovebird Center

Cockatiel Cottage

New England Exotic Bird Sanctuary

South Bay Bird Society

Austin Bird Club

Old World Aviaries

Bignest Aviaries

Wee B Toys

Pet Bird Care Safety Tips and Information

Parrot Online

Bella Online


Feathers and Tails

Birds By Donna

Kindness Club

Rockport Roost

Animal Lovers Pet Shop

The Real Macaw


African Lovebird Society

North American Cockatiel Society

Angel Wings Aviary

A&M Aviaries

The Animal Clinic of Clifton


Arizona Avian Breeders Association

Avian Avenue

Ask Dr. Petra

Long Island Parrot Society of New York!.htm

The Grey Place

Birds Birds Birds!

The Family Pet Show

Doctors Foster and Smith

Parrots Canada

Birds Just Wanna Have Fun

American Animal Hospital Association

Soldan’s Feed and Pet Supplies

British Columbia SPCA

The Avian Medicine Chest

Pet Parrot Club UK

The Pet Bird Website

Quaker Parakeet

Houston Pet Talk

Hex Aviary

Birds of a Feather

All Creatures Animal Hospital

Feathered Friends Forever

Bird Crazy

The Parrotlet Parlour

The Windhover Veterinary Center

Arizona Bird Supply

The PetCARE Information Center

The Holistic Bird Newsletter

Win Rose Animal Hospital

Harmony’s World of Pets

Janice’s Bird Haven

The Bird Hotline

The True Parrot

The Grey-cheeked Parakeet

Dandy the African Grey Parrot

Quaker Parrots

Animal Rescue League of Iowa

Wasatch Avian Education Society

Dane County Humane Society

Montreal Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital

Parrot Passions UK


Pretty Birds

The Animal Network

Pet Finder

Budgies ’N Tiels

Pair o' Keets and Qweak n' Tails


Give Us A Home

Eve’s India

MSN Health

Pet Education

North Fork Animal Hospital