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Birds and Toxic Fumes

Before the availability of modern detection devices, miners used canaries to alert them to the presence of poisonous gas. Following a mine fire or explosion, mine rescuers would descend into the mine carrying a canary in a small wooden or metal cage. Any sign of distress from the canary was a clear signal that the conditions underground were unsafe, prompting a hasty return to the surface.

Miners also kept canaries with them while they were working to detect toxic gases, primarily methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide. If dangerous gases were in the mine, the canary would die and the miners could escape before levels of gas became dangerous for people. Canary deaths helped saved the lives of many miners. Thankfully, alternative methods were developed to detect these toxic gases and canaries were no longer used.

Birds are extremely sensitive creatures and keeping your bird’s environment free of potentially deadly fumes is part of providing a safe home for your pet. Even the slightest exposure to certain airborne chemicals can be devastating. Birds are sensitive to carbon monoxide as well as airborne particles of insecticide sprays, hair spray, perfumes, paint fumes, room deodorizers and even bleach or ammonia fumes.

Birds are also sensitive to smoke, and cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke can be quite damaging. Burnt oil or butter or even smoke from a fire can also cause severe breathing trouble. The fumes from burnt pans with non-stick coating and fumes from self-cleaning ovens contain the toxic chemical polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Any item with a non-stick coating should not be used around birds, even if it is not overheated. These items include cookware, irons, ironing board covers and even heat lamps.

Because of the bird’s extremely sensitive respiratory system, anytime a strange odor is detected remove your bird from the area immediately. It is strongly recommended you keep your bird in other rooms of the house beside the kitchen. Keeping your bird safe is a very important aspect of having a bird share your life.