I have concerns about Teflon and have read many different opinions about it. What is your view? Is it safe to use? If it's too risky I would get rid of it all, but I won't do that if it can be used safely.
I'm so glad you asked about Teflon. This is a very good example of how inaccurate information on the internet can be and how important it is to cross-reference and find reputable sources. Parrot science is changing literally every day. Even though parrots have been kept as companions for thousands of years, we only began intensive study about them within the last few decades and we learn new things all the time. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad information spread around by people who really don't know what they're talking about - in fact, there is more inaccurate information than accurate information. I strongly recommend taking the necessary time to verify information thoroughly.
For years there certainly were a lot of "opinions" about the danger of Teflon. Dupont (the maker of Teflon - the brand name) claimed for a very long time that it was not dangerous to humans or animals (they now warn about the risks of using telfon, both for humans and birds). However, we now have science to clear up any questions. This is no longer a question of opinions - we now have the facts.
Teflon is dangerous to birds and to humans under particular conditions. When it is heated to 446 degrees, Teflon begins to emit toxic particulates. At 680 degrees, it releases at least 6 toxic gases, two of which are carcinogens, and a chemical called MFA which is lethal to humans. In other words, the danger comes when your teflon pans are heated up.
We used to think that normal cooking would not allow pans to get hot enough to release these toxins, but a recent study by the Environmental Working Group, showed that a typical frying pan can reach 736 degrees on a regular electric stove in 3 minutes and 20 seconds. The overheating happens most commonly when a pan is put on the stove to preheat or more commonly, when someone forgets about a pan of boiling water and it boils out leaving the empty pan to burn.
If teflon burns in a home with birds it is almost always tragic. They can die within moments of inhaling the fumes. However, the scariest thing about teflon is that prolonged exposure can also lead to very serious illness and death. Over time, teflon coatings break down and that makes it easier for the chemicals to be released. When you burn a pan, it's obvious, but teflon can regularly reach heats that are high enough to spread small amounts of the toxins without anyone knowing it.
Teflon poisoning (polytetraflouroethylene intoxication, or PTFE) kills parrots by causing severe edematous pneumonia. They will show severe respiratory distress...open-mouthed breathing, raspy breath sounds, tail bobbing and finally, falling off their perches...all within minutes. This happens because their lungs are filling with fluid - they drown right in front of you. In most cases, there is nothing you can do and there typically isn't even enough time to get to the vet.
Long term exposure that is not immediately deadly makes the bird more prone to respiratory infections and sensitivity. This can cause them to die a slow, painful death.
If you have burned a pan or your bird is showing the symptoms I described, you need to:
1. Get the pan off the heat and out of the house immediately.
2. Open windows and begin airing the house out immediately.
3. Turn on fans to increase ventilation. You can also take your bird into the bathroom, turn the shower on hot and let him breath the steam in.
4. Call your vet, tell them what's happened, and tell them you're on your way for an emergency visit.
If you make it to the vet, he/she will give the bird oxygen and medication (antibiotics & diruetics) to try to flush water out of his system to prevent it from filling the lungs.
If you choose to continue to use teflon or until you're able to buy new pans, you can use teflon safely by taking these precautions:
1. Never leave pans unattended - remember, overheating is the real problem.
2. Throw away pans when they begin to show wear and tear (i.e. scratches, thinned out coating).
3. Keep your bird and his cage as far from the kitchen as you can - this is a good idea for many reasons, the kitchen can be a dangerous place!
The bottom line is that teflon can be used in such a way that the danger can be significantly reduced and if you diligently maintain your safety measures, you can continue to use it. Accidents are part of life and there is now way to protect your bird, yourself, or your family from every risk...so, I always recommend leaning on your own common sense to help make the right decisions for your loved ones. We had teflon pans before we brought birds into our lives and we continued to use them until it was time for them to be replaced - and we then bought stainless steel.
Whatever you decide, on any parrot topic, get informed, think carefully, ask your vet if you're unsure...and then trust yourself. That is the best anyone can do.