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The Non Stick Issue
by R C McDonald
Copyright © 2004
Non-stick linings can be found all over a great number of homes,
these days, and in a wide variety of forms. They've proliferated
in an enormous range of household goods, from curlers and
curling irons to cookware, ironing-board covers and irons to
oven mitts and drip pans, and much more. It's even used on the
bulbs in some heat lamps!
There are several manufacturers who produce various analogs
of this material, and although the danger of their use near birds is
well documented, very few manufacturers have any warning
whatsoever on their labeling. This has led to the accidental
death of many a pet bird over the years, along with a plethora
of reactions from bird owners, clubs, and other organizations.
When it comes to the health of my birds and myself, I prefer to
err on the side of caution - better safe than sorry, as my grand-
mother always used to say! But when so much of the available
information is hearsay and conjecture, what's a caring bird
owner to think?
Well - one issue that's become clear to me, is that there is no
question that there IS some danger to our birds in the use of
products coated with these materials. Research has shown that,
especially at the higher temperatures (and sometimes even at
lower ones!) the materials used for non-stick linings can produce
gases that are deadly for birds.
Too often I've heard people lament, too late, that they knew that
there was possible danger, but they thought their birds would be
okay in another room of the house, well away from the fumes.
Often this is true, but if you live in a house whose heating vents
tends to distribute the household air throughout the entire home,
seeing that your bird is in another room may not be enough to
protect him. In order for such an approach to work, there needs
to be little to no air exchange between the area where the utensils
coated with the non-stick lining are in use, and the area where
the bird (s) are.
There are other, lesser-known issues involved in the use of these
materials, as well. Preliminary studies recently undertaken by the
EPA have indicated that there is potential nationwide human
exposure to low levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and
its salts, predominantly ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO).
Based on certain animal studies, there could be a potential risk
of developmental and other adverse effects associated with
exposure in humans.
But since the same assessment also indicates substantial uncertainty
about the interpretation of the risk, the EPA has identified areas
where additional information could be helpful in allowing them
to develop a more accurate assessment of the potential risks
posed by PFOA and other similar compounds, and to identify
what voluntary or regulatory mitigation or other actions, if any,
would be appropriate.
Because of this, the EPA is making this preliminary assessment
public in order to identify the Agency's concerns, to indicate
areas where additional information or investigation would be
useful, and to request the submission of data addressing these issues.
PFOA and its salts are fully fluorinated organic compounds that
can be produced synthetically and formed through the degradation
or metabolism of certain other manmade fluorochemical products.
PFOA is a synthetic chemical and is not naturally occurring.
Consequently, all PFOA in the environment is attributable to
PFOA is used primarily to produce its salts, which are used as
essential processing aids in the production of fluoropolymers and
fluoroelastomers. Although they are made using PFOA, finished
fluoropolymer and fluoroelastomer products are not expected
to contain PFOA.
The major fluoropolymers manufactured using PFOA salts are
polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and polyvinylidine fluoride (PVDF).
PTFE has hundreds of uses in many industrial and consumer
products, including soil, stain, grease, and water resistant coatings
on textiles and carpet; uses in the automotive, mechanical, aerospace,
chemical, electrical, medical, and building/construction industries;
personal care products; and non-stick coatings on cookware.
PVDF is used primarily in three major industrial sectors:
Electrical/electronics, building/construction, and chemical processing.
Releases from manufacturing processes are one source of
PFOA in the environment.
The EPA is also soliciting the identification of parties who would
be interested in monitoring or participating in negotiations for the
development of one or more enforceable consent agreements
(ECAs) on PFOA and on fluorinated telomers ('telomers') which
may metabolize or degrade to PFOA.
The intent of the ECAs would be to develop additional information,
particularly environmental fate and transport information, to enhance
understanding of the sources of PFOA in the environment and the
pathways by which human exposure to PFOA is occurring.
The EPA's investigation began in 1999, when data was received
which indicated that perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS) was persistent,
unexpectedly toxic, and bioaccumulative. The data showed that
PFOS had been found in very low concentrations in the blood
of the general population and in wildlife around the world.
In June 2000, EPA indicated that it was expanding its investigation
of PFOS to encompass other fluorochemicals, including PFOA,
in order to determine whether these other fluorochemicals might
present concerns similar to those found with PFOS. EPA was
concerned in part because the studies had also found PFOA in
human blood during the studies on PFOS.
In September 2002, the Director of OPPT initiated a priority
review on PFOA because of the developmental toxicity data,
the carcinogenicity data, and the blood monitoring data presented
in an interim revised hazard assessment.
When the priority review commenced, EPA anticipated completing
the review within a few months. However, there remain substantial
uncertainties associated with the preliminary risk assessment. The
EPA believes these uncertainties may be reduced through acquisition
of more information, and it is therefore continuing the priority
review in order to acquire this information and better inform their
This issue could potentially affect all of us, bird keepers or not.
For a full copy of the EPA's report, email Oppt.Homepage@epamail.epa.gov
The web address for the Commission is
If you wish to send them an e-mail supporting the proposed
regulations, email email@example.com .
by R C McDonald
Reprinted with Permission