General Electric sells a “rough service” light bulb that is coated with Teflon. When used in a chicken coop (or a home with pet birds), this light bulb can kill the birds.
GE has refused to add a warning to their bulbs’ packaging even though it has been known for many years that, when heated, Teflon-coated “nonstick” cooking pans can release a compound that kills birds and causes flu-like “polymer fume fever” in humans. In our October/November 2012 Dear MOTHER article, reader Lynn Chong detailed her efforts to convince GE to add a warning label to their light bulb packaging after a bulb killed 19 birds in her coop.
Chong’s story about Teflon dangers prompted us to research the history of Teflon and other perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). Turns out there’s a great deal more to the story of DuPont’s Teflon than the deadly danger it presents to birds. Here’s the timeline we compiled from reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post and from scientific literature.
Teflon products made DuPont at least $100 million in profit annually, according to court documents. In 2006, the EPA called on eight manufacturers of PFOA and related chemicals (PFCs) to voluntarily eliminate these “persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic” compounds. To date, some progress has been made. The agency is considering whether there is sufficient evidence to ban these chemicals.
Meanwhile, beware of GE light bulbs coated with DuPont’s Teflon — they can kill your chickens. And if you think a bulb promoted as shatter-proof for “rough service” might be a good choice in your kids’ bedrooms, think again. If Teflon products kill chickens overnight, you probably don’t want to use them anywhere in your home.
Teflon, PFOA and related PFCs have been used in thousands of products for more than five decades. They are just a few of roughly 80,000 chemical formulas on the market that are virtually unregulated under current laws. This story of DuPont putting profits ahead of public safety has been repeated hundreds of times by other companies. The good news is that a coalition of groups is now pushing for a new federal law called the Safe Chemicals Act. If passed, the law will give government agencies better tools to prevent chemical companies from poisoning our environment. To learn more, go to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on Google+.
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