Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), otherwise known as Teflon, is a synthetic polymer or resin, that omits several gases into the air of its surroundings. PTFE is marketed under the trade name Teflon. Although it is not widely known or discussed, there have been many incidents of poisonings in humans associated with exposure to PTFE at high temperatures or in enclosed environments, where it is referred to as polymer fume fever or teflon flu. However, in contrast to humans, due to their sensitive respiratory system, birds are highly susceptible to the toxic effects of PTFE, especially when confined to an enclosed environment or when exposed to high temperatures such as heat lamp bulbs, fire, or cooking with nonstick pans.
The respiratory system of birds is designed for maximum efficiency, consisting of a unidirectional airflow that increases the concentration of gases contained within inhaled air. Thus, when birds inhale the PTFE fumes it actually increases the concentration of the toxic gasses. The poisonous gases released by the product damage the capillary endothelial cells, allowing fluid and blood to leak into the airways. This causes a decrease in oxygen supply in the body, leading to suffocation and death.
PTFE is used in numerous applications, some of which include:
- Wiring for computers (hookup wires, coaxial cables)
- Non-stick cookware
- Ironing board covers
- Heat lamp bulbs
- Waterproof fabric used for outdoor apparel and many horse blankets.
- Fabric protection for repelling stains
- Orthopedic footwear and other medical devices used to prevent and relieve friction-induced blisters, calluses, and foot ulcers for humans.