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'Do not eat' advisory issued for deer harvested near Fairfield

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife warned about higher levels of PFAS.

FAIRFIELD, Maine — A "do not eat" advisory was issued Tuesday for deer harvested in the Fairfield area, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said in a news release the departments detected higher levels of PFAS in some deer harvested in that area. 

MDIFW harvested deer from the area of several contaminated farm fields in Fairfield and tested them for PFAS. The news release stated five out of the eight deer tested had levels high enough in their meat to warrant a recommendation not to "eat more than two or three meals in a year."

The other three deer were tested from fields two miles away, and they had lower PFAS levels but still high enough to warrant a recommendation to eat less than one meal per week, according to officials.

Nathan Webb, wildlife division director for the MDIFW, said this is the first time deer have been tested for PFAS chemicals in the state of Maine. 

“We became aware of the potential for concern over contamination in wildlife and decided it was prudent to test deer given that they are consumed by hunters," Webb said.

Webb said the department plans to do additional testing on deer in that area, and likely other wildlife there, in the near future.

"This advisory area encompasses multiple farm fields that have been contaminated by high levels of PFAS through the spreading of municipal and/or industrial sludge for fertilizer that contained PFAS," the release stated. "Deer feeding in these contaminated areas have ingested these chemicals and now have PFAS in their meat and organs."

Alan Boucher said he operates a deer cutting business as a retirement hobby. He said this new advisory will likely cause his business to see roughly 100 fewer deer this year, but he said it's not worth risking the potential long-term effects. 

"The stuff tested 60%. Stay away from it, stay away from it. Don't eat it," Boucher said. 

Boucher said Wednesday morning, he had a customer call him about deer meat he had brought to his shop after having learned it was from the affected area. Boucher told the customer that a state biologist would come by to pick up the meat and properly dispose of it.

"It's still a sport. Maybe you can still go out there and hunt and get the thrill of the kill, but don't eat the meat," Boucher said. 

“Recent testing of deer harvested in the area show elevated levels of PFAS in both the meat and liver of deer,” MDIFW Commissioner Judy Camuso said in the release. “We take the elevated levels seriously and advise people not to eat deer that were harvested in these areas.”

The MDIFW said in a release the venison from the advisory area can be disposed of in the trash or at a landfill.

Hunters who harvested a deer from the advisory area this year will be eligible to get an additional deer permit next year.

Anyone who thinks they may have eaten contaminated meat can get a blood test to measure PFAS in their system. But, the test can't tell you where the PFAS came from or if it has or will cause any health problems.

According to the CDC, most people in the United States have some amount of PFAS in their blood.

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