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PFAS and Pets and Livestock Health

A black and white cow grazing on a green pasture, with blue sky and sun behind it

PFAS and Pets and Livestock Health

  • Grazing livestock can ingest PFAS from PFAS-affected soil and from plants growing in that soil.  Currently there is no scientific consensus regarding levels of PFAS in soil that would be considered safe for this exposure pathway.  Research suggests PFAS may build up over time in animal tissues and be present in varying amounts in their meat, milk, and eggs.
  • Most of the available information about the health effects of PFAS in pets and livestock is from studies in laboratory animals looking mainly at two PFAS: PFOA and PFOS. These studies showed the predominant health effects in lab animals to be liver disease, thyroid disease, reproductive disease, and developmental effects.

    Lifetime health advisory levels for PFAS have not yet been formulated specifically for pets or livestock. At this time, it is recommended that drinking water for pets and livestock meet the same safety standards as those for people.

  • The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recommends you use the same drinking water precautions for pets that you take for yourself. Contact a veterinarian if you suspect that your pet or livestock is experiencing liver, kidney, immune response, or reproductive issues and your animal has had PFAS exposure. There may be other causes, apart from PFAS, that may contribute to these health issues. Work with your veterinarian to perform an exam and any necessary tests.
  • If you suspect that your animal is ill due to an exposure to PFAS, contact a veterinarian to perform a physical exam. Many conditions can be associated with high PFOS exposure, including liver disease, thyroid disease, reproductive disease, and developmental issues, but there are also many other causes of these health effects. It is important you work with your veterinarian to conduct relevant diagnostic tests and treatments.
  • No standards for PFAS have been established for farms.  Just because your farm is near a site where PFAS has been detected does not necessarily mean your livestock have been exposed to elevated levels of PFAS.  If your farm is near a PFAS site, contact the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to inquire whether your well water should be tested for PFAS. If the water given to your livestock does have elevated levels of PFAS, you may need to take precautions to reduce their exposure.  MDARD will work with any potentially impacted farms on recommended or required actions based on the specific circumstances.
  • There are currently no federal safety standards for levels of PFAS in soil used to grow animal feed or in soil used in livestock grazing or foraging areas. Crops grown on land having elevated PFAS in the soil or irrigation water may accumulate PFAS and may pose a risk. More research is needed on a national level to understand these risks.
  • At this time, there is no reliable way to know how much PFAS is transferred from contaminated feed or water to animal products, and currently there are no federal food safety standards for PFAS levels in food.  Research suggests PFAS may build up over time in animal tissues and be present in varying amounts in meat, milk, and eggs.
  • Importantly, while PFAS is found in low levels in the environment, and might be detected in a test, there are no federal standards established for PFAS in animal products.  While it is possible to test animal products and other foods for levels of PFAS, currently there are very few laboratories that can do this, and the significance of the results may be difficult to determine.