Maine Wildlife and Health Officials Issue Advisory Against Eating Potentially Toxic Deer

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

Tests on deer in the greater Fairfield area show high levels of Poly-fluoroalkyl substances

Officials are warning hunters not to eat deer taken in Maine's greater Fairfield area. Image by Stephanie MalloryDeer hunters in one region of central Maine are being advised not to eat the venison of animals they shoot because of potential toxicity.

On Nov. 24, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), in conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), issued a “do not eat” advisory for fear that people who eat the contaminated meat could develop a variety of health problems.

Tests have shown deer in the greater Fairfield area, about 55 miles southwest of Bangor, have high levels of Poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a chemical that is resistant to heat, water and oil. For decades, PFAS have been used in a variety of items such as non-stick cookware, carpet, waterproof clothing, pizza boxes, and microwave popcorn bags. PFAS were also used in firefighting foams. Since they do not break down, PFAS remain in the environment and are transferred into soil, water, plants, and animals. 

“Studies of people who were exposed to PFAS have found links between the amount of chemicals in blood and increased cholesterol levels, decreased response to vaccines, increased liver enzymes, increased risk of high blood pressure ... and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer,” state officials said.

The advisory includes any deer living five miles around the Ohio Hill Road area of Fairfield.

In a Facebook post, the MDIFW says high levels of the chemicals have been found on multiple farms in the Fairfield area, due to “the spreading of municipal and / or industrial sludge for fertilizer that contained PFAS.”

Deer feeding in these contaminated areas have ingested these chemicals, and now have PFAS in their organs and meat. Experts say cooking the meat doesn’t rid it of the chemicals.

Those who have questions about the advisory can find more info at mefishwildlife.com/deerconsumptionadvisory.

Officials advise that hunters who have already harvested a deer in the advisory area should not eat the deer and dispose of it in their trash or landfill. The department will offer those who have already harvested a deer in the advisory area an opportunity to take an additional deer in the 2022 hunting season. Call the department at 207-287-8000 or email IFW.PFAS@maine.gov for more information.

You can contact the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with questions about the health effects from PFAS or blood testing at 866-292-3474 (toll-free in Maine) or 207-287-4311.

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