Port Alberni bird owner learns about space heater danger after pet’s death

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A Port Alberni bird owner has a cautionary tale after one of her budgies died this past weekend, likely because of a space heater.

On Friday, when temperatures plummeted, Leslie West was running her space heaters to help warm her unit longer than she normally would.

“It started to give off a burnt plastic smell, and I came back in the house from going outside and unplugged it…but I guess the damage was done,” said West.

She checked on her birds, and the youngest, just six months old, was gasping for air.

She tried to help him, but the budgie she called ‘Yellow Bird’ died the next morning with signs of a respiratory infection.

West then started searching the internet and realized many other birds had met a similar fate.

“It’s not in the public eye, and the reason why I’m doing this story is to save other birds. This is quite a common problem, and we knew nothing about it,” said West.

A Nanaimo-based organization that advocates for the ethical treatment of birds says space heaters that malfunction or overheat and are coated with the synthetic compound known as Teflon or PFAS are known to be bird killers.

“If the thing was malfunctioning and it was overheating, I mean, smoke is a whole other thing, and any other potentially toxic chemical you would get from an overheating device like that can be just as bad. The thing with Teflon is there is no odour,” said Laurie Rex, founder and president of Feathers in BC.

Rex says bird owners need to be aware of the dangers that Teflon, PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) or synthetic compounds can have on birds.

“Space heaters, self-cleaning ovens, people with air fryers that are not clear of those chemicals. You can buy them that are electrical appliances of any kind, anything that heats up like a coffee maker,” said Rex.

The Canadian government is looking at a further ban on PFAS due to concerns for human health. A federal government report issued in May of 2023 examines PFAS that remain unregulated to inform decision-making in Canada.

West says it’s heartbreaking she only learned about the dangers a space heater can pose through the death of her bird.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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