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Consumption guidelines not needed for deer harvested in the Norton Creek Huron River area

After analyzing test results for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in muscle and heart tissue taken from white-tailed deer in Oakland County’s Proud Lake Recreation Area, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has concluded that consumption guidelines are not needed for deer harvested there. The full report is available on the state's PFAS in Deer webpage.

The announcement coincides with the start of Michigan’s bow-hunting deer season which began on Oct.  1.

In April, samples of muscle, liver, kidney and heart were taken from 20 white-tailed deer harvested within 5 miles of Norton Creek in the Proud Lake Recreation Area and then tested for multiple PFAS. No PFAS were found in any muscle or heart samples. In liver and kidney samples, PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) was the only type of PFAS found.

Muscle and liver samples from the deer also were tested for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other chemicals. No PCBs or other chemicals were found in muscle samples. Some liver samples had very low detectable levels of PCBs.

Based on this data, MDHHS concluded no consumption guidelines are needed for deer taken from the Norton Creek area. Organs (liver and kidneys) may contain higher levels of chemicals than muscle, so MDHHS recommends that people not eat the organs. 

Testing of white-tailed deer from the Huron River/Norton Creek area was prompted by the finding of levels of PFOS in surface water and fish tissue samples taken from the Huron River watershed in August 2018.

Last year, more than 120 white-tailed deer from across the state were sampled and tested for PFAS. Test results showed high levels of PFOS in one deer from near Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township, resulting in a “Do Not Eat” deer advisory for the area.

PFAS are manmade chemicals that are resistant to heat, water and oil. For decades, they have been used in many industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, waterproof clothing, upholstery, food paper wrappings, personal care products, fire-fighting foams and metal plating. They are still used today. PFAS have been found at low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the majority of the U.S. population.

PFAS do not break down in the environment. They also can build up over time in the blood and organs of wild game, fish and humans exposed to these chemicals through the food they eat and the water they drink. Studies of people who were exposed to PFAS found links between the chemicals and increased risk of liver damage, thyroid disease, pre-eclampsia, decreased fertility and small decreases in birthweight.