Canary in a Coalmine or Parakeet in your Kitchen?

In days of old, caged canaries would be carried by mining workers down into the tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine-shaft, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners. Sad for the canaries, but an effective safety device for the miners.

Today you can use your own pet bird in a similar way. How? Well, if you use Teflon coated pans in your kitchen and they are heated to just the right temperature, they will emit poisonous gas. Its called “Teflon toxicosis” where the lungs of exposed birds hemorrhage and fill with fluid, leading to suffocation. Just bring Tweedy near enough to your stove so that he can breathe the same air that you do. If he keels over, you know you have heated up your pan too much.

DuPont on its website, acknowledges that these fumes can also sicken people, a condition called “polymer fume fever.” Please do know that they state that “normal” household heating of these pans will not pose any danger whatsoever to you or Tweedy. Just don’t put an empty pan on a burner on high to pre-heat it, for example.

Also one should also not ingest tiny bits of scraped off Teflon, as Teflon is a polymer made from fluoride which is a known hazardous chemical and poison.

Alas, there does not seem to be a corresponding warning idiom for actual consumption of Teflon particles that would serve as an early warning signal in the way that birds are useful for the gases.

If having a bird in the kitchen doesn’t work for you, and you don’t want to wonder about unseen ingested particles, you could just simply prepare your meals with cast iron or glass or stainless steel.

For more information on popular polymers, including how “stain resistant” carpets and clothing could possibly transfer these chemicals into your body, see this article at Tuberose.

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