Federal Agency Agrees With Health Advisories For Consuming Wild Game From Tittabawasee River Flood Plain

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

May 6, 2005

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has released a Public Health Consultation for “Dioxins in Wild Game Taken from the Tittabawassee River Flood Plain.” The consultation, prepared for the ATSDR by the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), documents the technical basis for the Wild Game Advisory issued by four state agencies.

High levels of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in muscle meats, skin, and other consumable portions of wild game taken from the floodplain prompted the Michigan Departments of Agriculture, Community Health, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources to issue an advisory in September 2004.

State of Michigan health assessors reviewed the wild game data for the flood plain of the Tittabawassee River downstream of Midland. The results conclude that eating deer, turkey, or squirrel that contain dioxin at the levels found in the Dow wild game study could result in adverse health effects.

Levels of dioxins in the wild game harvested in the floodplain downstream of Midland for the study were up to 7 times higher than samples taken upstream of Midland in deer muscle meat, 118 times higher in deer liver, 66 times higher in turkey, and 40 times higher in squirrel.

The Michigan Department of Community Health is advising that hunters and their families follow these recommendations:

  • Do not eat the liver from deer harvested in or near the floodplain downstream of Midland.
  • Limit consumption of muscle meat from deer harvested in or near the floodplain downstream of Midland. Women of childbearing age and children under the age of 15 should eat only one meal of deer muscle meat harvested in the floodplain per week. Trimming any visible fat will lower the level of dioxins in the cooked meat.
  • Do not eat turkey harvested in or near the floodplain downstream of Midland. While MDCH advises that you not eat turkey taken from the floodplain, at a minimum the skin, liver, and gizzard should be removed and discarded.
  • Limit consumption of squirrel harvested in or near the floodplain downstream of Midland. Women of childbearing age and children under the age of 15 should eat only one meal of squirrel per week.

Only deer, turkey and squirrel harvested from the Tittabawassee River flood plain have been tested for dioxins. Other wild game may also contain dioxins at levels that are a concern and other downstream areas may be affected. Additional studies are being considered.

Until additional information is available, follow this general advice on wild game to reduce potential dioxin exposure:

  • Trim any visible fat from the meat before cooking
  • Do not consume organ meats, such as liver or brains
  • Do not eat the skin

As a reminder, Fish Consumption Advisories remain in effect for sport caught fish from the Tittabawassee River south of Midland, based on levels of dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls. The 2004 Fish Consumption Advisory is available on the front page of the Department of Community Health’s web site (see address below.)

Copies of the Public Health Consultation for Dioxins in Wild Game Taken from the Tittabawassee River Floodplain may be found at the Michigan Department of Community Health website at http://www.michigan.gov/mdch-toxics or by calling toll free 1-800-648-6942.

For additional information, please contact Linda D, Dykema (dykemal@michigan.gov), Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology, 3423 North Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lansing, MI 48906. People may also call the toll-free telephone number, 1-800-648-6942 (1-800-MI-TOXIC).

Additional information regarding wild game advisories for the flood plain of the Tittabawassee River, including a map of the area covered by these advisories, may be found at www.michigan.gov/deq and www.michigan.gov/mdch.