Ask Lafeber

Question:

August 30, 2022

Ionizer air cleaner dangers for small birds


Hello, thank you for the information stated above regarding ozone being a danger for parakeets and birds. I just lost my son’s parakeet because we got a 5 in 1 air cleaner that had a UV portion as well as ionization that apparently created a small amount of ozone. Within 3 days my 2-year-old blue parakeet suffocated and was gasping for air on the bottom of the cage and died in my autistic sons hands as he was desperate and trying to seek help from my son as he took his last breaths. It was so sudden and I had no idea that the air cleaner could have been the culprit until that thought crossed my mind and I went and looked at the warnings in the box and it said that they’re ionizer creates a small amount of ozone which can be hazardous for small pets. I contacted the company and they said that they’re unaware of it being a danger to animals and they’d like for me to provide any research or anything proving that ionization is dangerous for parakeets or birds. So, I know it’s a long shot but if you have any information from a veterinary standpoint or any medical veterinary science literature that I could present to them, they might be willing to change their warnings in the insert in their air cleaners to hopefully save some other people’s pets and avoid this heartbreaking situation. Thank you so much, Anna


Answer:

Hi Anna,

I am SO sorry that you and your son had to go through this, and of course sad about your little parakeet. Birds have a very complicated respiratory system, so they are sensitive to many airborne particles. This knowledge goes back for generations, when miners used to take canaries into the mines as an early warning system for toxic gasses. A small canary would succumb almost instantly to toxic fumes, so miners were alerted and could leave before they were overcome. In the 1980’s, as Teflon cookware became popular, mysterious pet bird deaths were linked to the coating. It was discovered through independent testing that when heated to a certain temperature, deadly fumes were released. However, DuPont refused to acknowledge this for decades. They were finally faced with proof that these fumes could cause a flu type illness in humans, so they started adding a warning. Air purifiers that produce Ozone as well as those with an ionizer are known to be dangerous to small pets, but they can also cause respiratory issues in humans. My point in telling you all of this is that if a fume is toxic to birds, it is almost certainly harmful on some level to humans, but generally humans are not exposed to enough to die. One would think that companies would be alarmed by this, but instead they prefer to ignore it unless forced to add warnings. Once they add a warning, they are admitting they know there is an issue, but continue to produce the item anyway, and this leaves them open to litigation. So sadly, this has not changed since the 80’s when the Teflon danger was discovered and it isn’t likely to change now. There are many, many common household products with fumes or odors that can kill a pet bird. All you can do if you decide to get another bird is avoid anything that has a strong odor or fragrance, and search for lists of known toxins to pet birds. Again, this was a terrible thing to happen to you, and I can only imagine the affect it has had on your son. I wish I could be encouraging, but at best you may threaten to expose them on social media unless they agree to refund your money. I generally would not encourage that, but they should have stopped making these type air purifiers decades ago. The ionizer setting is nothing new, and there is no telling how many birds have fallen ill or died like yours did.

Take care,

Brenda

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