When it comes to our parrots, there are some everyday items that we use that we can give them to chew on or play with. Many different types of wood, for example, are a safe and fun play toy for our parrots. With that being said, there are some other everyday items that are not so safe for parrots to use. Styrofoam is something that we find in many of our products around our home. It’s often used in crafts, drinking cups, packaging, insulation, and even cake displays. But this leads us to ask, where on the spectrum styrofoam falls? Is styrofoam safe for parrots?
The answer to this question is no. Parrots should never use styrofoam. This means that they should not be allowed to play with it or chew on it. If ingested, styrofoam can be very dangerous to parrots.
This leads us to ask a variety of other questions as well. Why is styrofoam dangerous for parrots? How can you keep your parrot safe from Styrofoam? And what should you do if your parrot has ingested styrofoam? Today we will answer all of these questions and more so let’s not waste another minute.
Why is Styrofoam dangerous for parrots?
Okay, so we’ve already identified that styrofoam is not safe for parrots to use or play with. But why is it so dangerous for parrots? The reason that styrofoam is so dangerous for parrots is the same reason that it’s so dangerous for young children.
The first concern with styrofoam is that it breaks off into small pieces that are static. If you have ever worked with styrofoam, you probably had small pieces break off and then stick to your clothing. This is all fine, dandy, and fun until it ends up in your parrots mouth.
These small pieces can stick inside of your parrots mouth and, if swallowed, can be extremely dangerous. These swallowed pieces can stick in your parrots throat preventing them from being able to breathe. There is not really any need to explain this further, as the implications are obvious.
The second concern with styrofoam is what it’s made from. Styrofoam, also referred to as polystyrene, is a petroleum-based plastic made from styrene monomer. Polystyrene is actually the trade name for styrofoam. It is very lightweight and consists of about 95% air. The rest of the material is made from styrene.
Styrene is a material that is commonly used in the manufacturing of rubbers, resins, and plastics. The problem is that styrene can cause adverse health effects even in humans.
Humans working with styrene can face skin irritations, eye irritations, upper respiratory tract irritations, and even gastrointestinal irritations.
Over the long-term, exposure to styrene has been shown to produce symptoms of headaches, fatigue, weakness, and even depression. It has also been shown to have effects on the kidneys, the blood, and may even be considered a human carcinogen (or a product that can cause cancer for humans).
If styrofoam can cause this many problems for humans, just imagine what it can do to our much smaller feathery friends.
For both of these reasons, you should never provide your parrot with any type of styrofoam to play with or chew on.
What about styrofoam bowls or cups?
Again, the answer is no. You should never provide your parrot with styrofoam bowls or cups.
Firstly, they can easily tear through the styrofoam with their beaks and end up ingesting it.
Secondly, styrofoam can release toxic chemicals that can be harmful to our parrots.
As mentioned above, styrofoam contains the chemical styrene. This can be very hazardous to your parrots health even if not ingested.
When used in conjunction with foods, especially foods that have been heated, styrofoam bowls, cups, and other dining ware can release these fumes and cause health concerns for our parrots.
How can you keep your parrot safe from styrofoam?
Because parrots can be mischievous, the best way to keep them safe from styrofoam is to keep styrofoam out of your home.
Of course, this isn’t always possible and you shouldn’t have to base your entire life around your parrot.
With that being said, if you are going to keep styrofoam in your home, always be sure to keep it out of reach of your parrot.
Never put styrofoam in the same room that your parrot is in and never advertently give your parrot Styrofoam to play with.
Wherever you do keep styrofoam, keep it in a locked cabinet or container where your parrot cannot gain access.
Parrots are very good at getting into things that they shouldn’t get into, so you need to make sure that any styrofoam within your house is locked away and inaccessible even when you’re not watching.
What should you do if your parrot has ingested styrofoam?
If your parrot has ingested styrofoam, you want to take them to the veterinarian immediately.
Even if you don’t suspect that your parrot has ingested styrofoam but they have recently been playing with something made from styrofoam, taking them to the veterinarian is highly recommended.
Even small amounts of swallowed styrofoam can present a choking hazard, and large amounts could present a fatal intestinal blockage concern.
When it comes to styrofoam it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
A veterinarian will be able to take X-rays of your parrots internal systems to determine whether a blockage has in fact occurred. If it has, proper steps can be taken to remove the styrofoam from your parrot’s stomach.
What should I do if my parrot is choking on styrofoam?
If your parrot is choking on styrofoam, it’s very important that you do not attempt to remove the object with your fingers or with a cotton swab.
This can end up causing more panic and more damage.
Rather, if you are noticing that your parrot is struggling to breathe, gently turn them upside down without restraining their head.
This will allow gravity to naturally manipulate the parrot’s jaw to potentially dislodge the object from their throat.
If your parrot has only swallowed a small piece of Styrofoam, you may be able to dislodge it carefully by performing short and quick compressions of their keel.
Keep in mind that this is not the same as the Heimlich manoeuvre performed on humans as birds don’t have a diaphragm like we do.
If you perform either of these manoeuvres, or if your parrot has dislodged the styrofoam from their throat on their own, seek veterinarian assistance immediately afterwards.
Both of these manoeuvres can cause internal damage, so it’s important to have your parrot checked out if they have been choking.
If you cannot dislodge the styrofoam from your parrots throat or if they have swallowed it completely, you should also seek veterinarian experience immediately. If it’s after hours, do not wait for your veterinarian to open. Rather, head to the emergency vet.
Can Styrofoam harm wild birds?
Yet another problem with styrofoam is that it is not biodegradable.
This means that it takes a long time to degrade when sent to the landfill. While it’s unknown exactly how long it takes styrofoam to degrade, experts estimate that the decomposition takes up to 500 years.
Furthermore, styrofoam cannot be recycled so it ends up directly in our landfills. When it ends up in our landfills, it becomes a direct hazard to wild birds or any other wildlife that may seek out food there.
How big is the problem?
Styrofoam is a huge environmental concern. It’s estimated that everyday approximately 1369 tons of Styrofoam end up in United States landfills.
It’s further estimated that styrofoam fills up between 25% to 30% of space in landfills around the world today.
Not only does this present a problem for wild animals, but the pollutants that it releases contaminate our landfills and deplete our ozone layer.
It’s one of the most un-environmentally friendly waste products in the world today.
In conclusion, no, Styrofoam is not safe for parrots. You should never give your parrot Styrofoam in any form and any styrofoam products within your house should be kept in a safe place that your parrot cannot access.