Paper Towel Roll Toys / Danger?
by Steve Hartman / The Parrot University
Core rolls from paper towel and toilet paper
pose a toxic threat to parrots.
Generally the concern most mentioned is the possibility of a zinc component somewhere in the core or the adhesive attaching the paper to the core. A secondary and seldom reported rumor is the danger of bacterial contamination on toilet paper rolls. Several years ago I checked into this and my independent research found that zinc is not a component of the cardboard or adhesives used in these type products. I did find reasons to avoid the use of toilet paper cores.
It has been proven that every time a toilet is flushed a small amount of material becomes airborne. These minute moisture droplets can carry many different bacteria including e.coli. (Several different types of bacteria including e.coli can cause intestinal problems in humans and parrot in ingested in sufficient quantities.) The moisture droplets are very small and can carry for several feet, and do eventually cover all surfaces in most bathrooms. While the chances are very small that enough pathogenic bacteria would have collected on a toilet paper core, it is not wise to offer them to parrots as toys. Paper towel roll cores that are used in a bathroom should also not be used.
Because high levels of zinc can, in some situations, pose a threat I wanted to be sure and I contacted two major producers of paper towels and toilet paper to find out the rest of the story. Proctor and Gamble and Kimberly Clark were chosen because they are the companies I find most mentioned in the rumors.
Both companies acknowledge that they did not manufacture their products to be used as parrot toys. Since they were not manufactured as parrot toys they did not do research to make sure they were appropriate to use for parrot toys. There inability to recommend their product as a parrot toy in no way indicates they are dangerous to parrots. This is the same legal side step that I use with the products I produce.
While Proctor and Gamble goes as far as to say that there is no zinc in their product, Kimberly Clark has not done the research to show that there is no zinc. In reality they do not need to research zinc any more then they need to research kryptonite since it has no reason to be there to begin with. What Kimberly Clark does say is that since they have not gone to the extent to insure their product is food grade they are not going to rule out any possibility no matter how crazy it might be. It should also be noted that trace amounts of zinc are included in all diets for humans and parrots.
Kimberly Clark also confirmed that the cores are manufactured form recycled cardboard. In 2005 approximately 65% of all cardboard was recycled in the US. Cores are made the same, and from the same types of recycled materials that we find in most of the cardboard products we use including, cardboard boxes, magazines, telephone books, tissue paper boxes, newspapers, pizza boxes and just about any other cardboard and paper product you use every day. If you are going to jump to the conclusion that there are dangerous levels of zinc in paper towel and toilet paper cores then you had better be taking a closer look at other used paper products you offer your parrot as toys. All telephone books, newspaper and cardboard boxes made in the United States have EXACTLY the same chance of containing zinc because they are all made from the same source materials. With the significant incidence of pet bird owners offering all of these products, for many years, to millions of birds without any confirmed case of toxicity constitutes a significant body of anecdotal research proving that cardboard, including paper towel cores, is not hazardous to parrots.
Both Proctor and Gamble and Kimberly Clark have very good consumer service departments. They were very prompt in supplying the information I requested. I have included the date, time and reference information that can be used to verify responses form both companies.
Proctor and Gamble
Response (RightNow Administrator)
11/10/2005 04:13 PM
Thanks for contacting Bounty, Steve.
People often tell us about the unusual uses they've found for our products. We're glad to hear of such positive results, even though we can't encourage this type of product use. Our safety-testing and research help us confidently say that our product will do what we designed it to do. These are the only uses we can knowledgeably recommend.
It may help to know, people heard from various sources that the core or the last sheet on the roll could have zinc which is a problem to birds/pets who are in contact with these. I can assure you that there is no zinc in the core or the towel, including the adhesive.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
Thank you for contacting Kimberly-Clark Corporation.
In answer to your inquiry, we did not acknowledge that the core adhesive on any of our rolled products contains zinc. However, we did inform others that while the core glue is safe for its intended use, it is not food grade and does not meet indirect food contact regulations. For that reason, we cannot recommend that the cores be used with pets.
As far as the presence of zinc, the cores themselves are made of recycled fiber, with the majority of the fiber coming from office waste and similar paper sources. Although these fibers are "cleaned" before they are used and are safe for their intended use, trace amounts of zinc may be present. Based on this information and the fact that the core adhesive is not food grade, we cannot recommend that the cores be used with pets.
We hope that this information is helpful and thank you again for your interest.