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Dear Parrots magazine,

Paper towel and toilet tissue rolls

The homemade enrichment toy piece in the December 2012 issue has some good ideas. But I wonder if you know that, at least in North America, the glue that holds paper towel and toilet tissue rolls together often contains zinc.

For that reason it’s not recommended as a parrot toy component.

Jesse, Parrotdise Perch, Canada

I have looked into this and see Steve Hartman at The Parrot University - Hartman Aviary has done some research on this very rumour.

On his website: Steve sets out his findings:

Generally the concern most mentioned (in the use of toilet tissue rolls and kitchen paper towel rolls) is the possibility of a zinc component somewhere in the core, or the adhesive attaching the paper to the core.  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 types of products.  But, 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, which could cause intestinal problems if 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.

Because high levels of zinc can, in some situations, pose a threat I wanted to be sure, and 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 most mentioned in the rumours.

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 the presence of zinc since it has no reason to be there to begin with.  What Kimberly Clark does say is that because they have not researched if their product is food grade, they cannot rule out completely the possibility of zinc being present, no matter how crazy it might be.  But mention, trace amounts of zinc are included in all diets for humans and parrots.

Kimberly Clark also confirmed that the cores are manufactured from recycled cardboard, the same product used in the manufacture of 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.

Proctor & Gamble Paper Products who make Bounty kitchen paper stated:  “I can assure you there is no zinc in the core, the towel or the adhesive.”

So it would appear the cardboard centres of kitchen paper rolls are safe to offer parrots, but it is probably best not to give them the core of toilet rolls, due to the slim chance they may have suffered bacterial contamination.  

Thank you Jesse for bringing up the subject!  Ed




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