Deer liver found to have high levels of PFAS

    DNR PFAS Graphic
    This graphic, supplied by the Wisconsin DNR, shows identified locations of PFAS concentrations around the state as of November 2015. (Image courtesy of Wisconsin DNR)

    The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released a report on its examination of the liver of a deer, which was found to have high levels of PFAS (per- and polyfluroalkyl substances). As a result, the DNR and Department of Health Services (DHS) have issued a Do Not Eat advisory for the liver of deer harvested within five miles of the JCI/Tyco Fire Technology Center (FTC), particularly in and around the Marinette and Peshtigo areas.

    According to a DNR press release, testing of local deer was conducted because of high interest from the local community. The Marinette and Peshtigo areas have some of the highest levels of PFAS contamination in Wisconsin. DNR has held numerous public listening sessions, both in-person and virtually, to allow locals to vent their frustrations about the contamination and to distribute new information.

    During these meetings, Wisconsin residents have shared tales of losing livestock, pets, and even having their own health affected by PFAS-contaminated water. The DNR continues to test private wells, and provides drinking water to people whose private wells test too high for PFAS.

    PFAS are part of a large group of man-made substances which are used in many products from non-stick pans to clothing to firefighting foam. The substances have also been linked to a slew of health impacts in humans and other life forms. PFAS and related compounds also do not break down in the environment, and have thus earned the title of  “forever chemicals.” Animals, including humans, often consume the contaminates through drinking water.

    Some 20 deer were harvested from the area around Marinette and Peshtigo, and included as part of the DNR’s study. Interestingly, while levels of PFAS were found in the liver of the deer, the compounds weren’t detected in high quantities in both the muscles and heart tissue. It’s for that reason that a similar advisory hasn’t been issued for those parts of the deer.

    “The liver filters chemicals from the blood, and some chemicals, like PFAS, can accumulate in the liver over time. These findings suggest that eating liver from deer in this area is likely to result in significant PFAS exposure,” the DNR press release states.

    Tami Ryan, a DNR wildlife health section chief said, “We want to be clear that people should feel comfortable eating venison from deer they’ve harvested near this area,” adding that, “We just advise they do not consume the liver.”

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    Isiah Holmes
    Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.