State health and wildlife officials are warning people not to eat the livers of deer killed near Marinette, where soil and groundwater are contaminated with hazardous chemicals known as PFAS.
But the departments of Natural Resources and Health Services say the rest of the animals can be safely consumed.
The agencies issued the “do not eat” advisory Tuesday based on tests of deer harvested within 5 miles of the JCI/Tyco Fire Technology Center in Marinette, saying that consuming such animals’ livers could result in “significant” exposure to the chemicals, which have been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other ailments.
The tests revealed six PFAS compounds in the deer livers. One compound, PFOS, was found in all 20 livers sampled at concentrations of up to 92 parts per billion. Lower levels of PFOS were found in the muscle tissue of one animal and in the hearts of two.
While there are no state or federal guidelines on PFAS consumption, the Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories recommends limiting consumption of fish with PFOS concentrations above 10 ppb. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection this fall recommended children and all women of childbearing age not eat fish with PFOS concentrations over 17 ppb.
“We want to be clear that people should feel comfortable eating venison from deer they’ve harvested near this area,” said Tami Ryan, DNR wildlife health section chief. “We just advise they do not consume the liver.”
The announcement comes just days after the start of the fall archery season.
The DNR plans to contact hunters who have registered deer from the area to let them know about the findings. The agency will also discuss the study at public listening sessions Wednesday.
Because the study was limited to the area around Marinette, the DNR said it’s not clear if the PFAS found in the animals was a result of local exposure or representative of deer in general.
Ryan said the agency plans to sample livers from 20 deer harvested at areas from across the state to get a better understanding of baseline PFAS levels.
Tyco Fire Products, a unit of Johnson Controls, discovered PFAS in soil and groundwater at its fire training facility in Marinette and later acknowledged the chemicals had spread beyond its property.
The DNR is overseeing monitoring and cleanup in the Marinette and Peshtigo areas.
PFAS are a group of largely unregulated synthetic compounds found in firefighting foam as well as food packaging, non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, carpeting and other products. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment.
They have been found in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, soil, sediments, air, fish and wildlife, as well as in human blood samples. PFAS have been detected in all of Madison’s municipal wells.
The DNR is monitoring more than 40 PFAS contamination sites around the state, most of which the agency says can be traced to firefighting foam. Several contaminated sites at the Dane County Regional Airport have been linked to training areas used for decades by the Wisconsin Air National Guard and local fire departments.
State and local health officials have warned anglers to limit consumption of some fish from Lake Monona and Starkweather Creek, where surveys have detected elevated levels of the chemicals.
Photos: Wisconsin hunters show off their harvests from the 2017 gun deer season
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