If venison is your game of choice, you might want to rethink your weekend hunting plans. Wildlife agencies have found high levels of PFAS—toxic “forever chemicals” that have serious health risks including disrupting hormones, including testosterone–within deer in states including Michigan and Maine.
What Are PFAS?
PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals commonly used in non-stick cookware and water-resistant clothing.
As their immortal nickname suggests, these chemicals don’t break down over time. Instead, they accumulate in the environment and your body, which is why they’re a growing health concern.
PFAS are also endocrine disruptors. As Internal Medicine Specialist Erich Acebedo, M.D. previously reported for The Edge, endocrine disruptors can block or amplify hormonal messages sent to and from your immune, neurological, and reproductive systems.
Research has linked them to low testosterone, reduced sperm motility, and lower sperm count, he notes.
More than 20 states have proposed or adopted limits around PFAS in drinking water based on health advisories from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The discovery of PFAS in wild animals poses a new challenge for hunters and those who enjoy and consume wild game.
“The fact there is an additional threat to the wildlife–the game that people are going out to hunt and fish–is a threat to those industries, and how people think about hunting and fishing,” said Jennifer Hill, associate director of the Great Lakes Regional Center for the National Wildlife Federation.
Should I Steer Clear of Eating Game?
Several states are warning hunters and wild game consumers against indulging in venison until testing can show how harmful it is to eat PFAS-tainted deer and fish.
Michigan, the first state to look at PFAS in deer, issued a warning on eating game back in 2018. Michigan has issued a warning against eating organs, including the liver and kidneys, from wild game because of PFAS accumulation.
Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Maine–states where hunting is a regular sport–have issued similar “do not eat” warnings for eating meat from wild game.
More testing is likely to find higher levels of PFAS in other wild game like turkey and fish, says David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
“You’re getting it in your water, you’re getting it in your food, you’re getting it in wild game,” says Trahan.