With hunting season in Michigan beginning October 1, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are reminding hunters about the “Do Not Eat” advisory for deer taken within 5 miles of Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township.
The advisory was originally issued in October of 2018, after venison was tested and found to have extremely high levels of PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), the most common chemical in the PFAS family.
Sara Thompson is a wildlife biologist with the DNR. She says the state is planning more tests on deer in the area to see what the exact level of contamination is.
“We're going to try it with up to 50 deer this fall. We pre-selected a group of hunters inside the health advisory area that we've been working with, and we're going to train them how to take the samples and how to get the samples frozen so that they can be taken to the lab.”
She says hunters not a part of the selected group can still hunt deer and send their own samples into a lab to be tested. The Michigan PFAS Response Team has provided a sheet of frequently asked questions with instructions on how to send samples.
Thompson says surface water contamination is different from a drinking water source being contaminated.
“This site up here in Oscoda is unique because it has high concentrations in the surface water then of course, wildlife are able to get to that surface water, where in sites in Michigan where it's the drinking water that's affected, that doesn't really affect wildlife because they're not drinking out of people's hose or faucets or such.”
Exposure to PFAS has been linked to increased cholesterol, impaired reproductive and immune systems, impaired growth in children, and heightened risk of kidney and testicular cancers.
Thompson says no one has reported getting sick from eating meat contaminated with PFAS outside of a lab setting, but people should still take precautions. Ultimately, she says, the advisory does not make it illegal.
“Ultimately, people need to be aware, but not overly concerned, because we’ve only had one deer that has tested with high levels and people need to make up their own minds on whether they want to eat deer from that area or not. People need to be educated and informed so they can make informed decisions.”
The DNR and MDHHS also recommend no one eat the organs of any wildlife found in the area or in the state of Michigan, as PFAS and other chemical accumulate in organs like the liver and kidneys as an organism’s system attempts to flush them out.