‘Forever Chemicals’ in Deer and Fish Are Prompting Health Advisories

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

For several years, hunters in multiple states across the U.S. have been warned off of consuming deer that appear to be infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) and epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). Both of which, however, are naturally occurring afflictions among deer populations, with cases recorded annually. Now though, some states’ deer, as well as their fish populations, are facing an entirely different type of hazard. More recently, a substance called “forever chemicals” has begun prompting what could become widespread health advisories.

According to WIS News, wildlife agencies have found elevated levels of certain toxic chemicals in multiple game animal species. Technically known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, the chemicals have earned the nickname “forever chemicals.” The nickname “forever chemicals” comes from their persistence in the environment and their incredibly slow breakdown. Per the news outlet, PFAS is found in manufactured items like nonstick cookware and clothing.

Authorities, so far, have most commonly found these forever chemicals affecting game in states like Maine and Michigan. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched efforts to try and minimize exposure of these chemicals to humans—chemicals that have been known to cause cancer and low birth weight.

Now though, wildlife exposure to the forever chemicals has become a serious problem. Many health advisories have begun emerging in areas where hunting and fishing serve as crucial pieces of the economy. These advisories, most commonly, consist of “do not eat” orders.

Further PFAS Testing Reveals Chemicals Likely Affecting Game Animals Besides Deer

Deer remain the primary concern for outdoorsmen and wildlife organizations regarding forever chemicals—especially across Maine. However, the toxic compounds will likely begin posing an increased risk to fish as well as wild birds like turkeys.

David Trahan, executive director for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a hunting and outdoors advocacy group, spoke about the detriment of these chemicals.

Overall, Trahan believes if officials don’t make efforts to begin eliminating the existence of forever chemicals in the natural environment, it’s going to begin having a negative impact on outdoor tourism in the short term.

“If people are unwilling to hunt and fish,” he said, “how are we going to manage those species? You’re getting it in your water, you’re getting in your food, [and] you’re getting it in wild game.”

Per the outlet, Maine was one of the first states to detect the existence of PFAS in its wild game. Last year, the state issued a “do not eat” advisory in the Fairfield area, north of Portland. The advisories came after several local animals tested positive for PFAS.

This year, the state is expanding its testing to a greater area. Farther west, Wisconsin has not only been testing large game for the forever chemicals but also ducks and geese. Officials wound up issuing a “do not eat” advisory in some regions north of Green Bay.