Maine officials say ‘don’t eat’ local deer after finding PFAS in specimens


The state government of Maine is urging people to avoid eating meat harvested from deer due to industrial chemicals that have leached into grazing habitat.

On November 24, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) issued a “do not eat” warning for deer after discovering PFAS contamination in Fairfield, just outside Bangor. The notice affects an area of ​​approximately 200 square miles.

PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are a family of industrial chemicals that resist biodegradation and cause adverse effects in humans and animals, including cancer.

The agency chose to conduct a study on deer in the region based on prior knowledge that soils and water contained high levels of PFOS, one of the most toxic forms of PFAS.

Department of Wildlife field study on deer contaminated with PFAS

According to officials, municipal / industrial sludge used in fertilizers caused the initial contamination of PFAS. Once it entered the fields and crops, it was only a matter of time before it found its way into the surrounding water table and wildlife.

The study included deer of all ages, from fawns to adults

The study found PFOS levels of 40 parts per billion in five of the eight deer collected from the most contaminated parts of the region. It may not seem like much, but this level of concentration in meat warrants a recommendation to eat it only two to three times a year, according to the MDIFW.

The other three deer had a lower concentration of PFOS, but still contained enough of the chemical to justify a consumption limit.

Toxicity of PFAS to humans, wildlife

PFAS are commonly used in industrial products, non-stick cookware, and durable water repellent (DWR) garment treatments. Their main utility is their resistance to biodegradation. According to the Center for Disease Control, they are “persistent in the environment”And, in fact, is now found at low levels in the blood of humans and animals around the world.

The problem is that PFAS are highly toxic to life. Environmental Protection Agency reports that laboratory animals have experienced reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney and immunological effects from exposure to PFAS. Other side effects include high cholesterol and tumors. In some cases, exposure can cause low birth weight or cancer (usually of the kidneys or testes).

With regard to fauna, the environmental toxicity of PFAS has only been studied relatively recently. It is clear that water disperses it, that terrestrial networks like streams and storm water spill it out, and ultimately it ends up in groundwater.

Because it primarily affects aquatic ecosystems, many studies have focused on fish, birds, and mammals that ingest PFAS.

pfas in Maine Wildlife

Some schools of thought even indicate that terrestrial fauna may be at greater risk of PFAS contamination than fish. Because chemicals travel through water, it is believed that fish can filter them out of their systems through their gills. Obviously, air-breathing animals cannot do this.

While many companies have phased out PFASs due to growing concerns about their toxicity, they continue to spread in the environment. It’s hard to overstate how ubiquitous chemicals are in the United States Some Studies to suggest that almost all of the American population is contaminated (mainly at concentrations deemed not to be harmful).

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Local settings, recommendations

The MDIFW has determined the advisory area (map here) based on deer grazing and migration patterns, which typically take place within a 5 mile radius. No part of a deer – organ or meat – taken in the area should be considered safe to eat. Cooking the meat will not solve the problem; to destroy the PFAS, you must heat it to over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The MDIFW advisory is in effect until further notice, and it is not known when or if it will be lifted. Contaminated soils and waterways can remain so for decades or more. Some PFAS polymers have shown a half-life of more than 1000 years in the ground.

MDIFW conducted the study with assistance from the state Center for Disease Control and the Department of Environmental Protection. He now urges anyone with venison harvest of the area to throw it away.

Anyone with a complete carcass in the area should contact MDIFW. If you have eaten game from the region, refer to the the department’s recommendations. Finally, MDIFW will issue a replacement deer tag to anyone who has claimed a deer in the area.

(Photo / Lindsey Mulcare)

There is no other active “do not eat” advisory anywhere else in Maine. Either way, it’s always best to check local recommendations before eating wild game, especially if you live in an agriculture or factory-made area.

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