PFAS Do Not Eat Advisory
For deer and wild turkey in portions of Fairfield and Skowhegan
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), in conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), has detected high levels of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in some deer and wild turkey harvested in the Fairfield area. MDIFW and Maine CDC recommend that hunters do not consume deer and wild turkey harvested within the "Do No Eat" (PDF) advisory area.
The “Do Not Eat Deer” advisory area was first issued for greater Fairfield in 2021 out of an abundance of caution for public health and using the best available data. After further testing and comprehensive analysis, MDIFW and Maine CDC reduced the size of the Do Not Eat advisory area in April 2023 and added wild turkey to the advisory.
Read on to learn what PFAS/PFOS are, about the investigation, and what the “Do Not Eat” advisory means for hunters and families eating wild turkey and deer meat.
On this page:
- What are PFAS and PFOS?
- Background of PFAS in Maine
- MDIFW PFAS Investigation
- Do Not Eat Advisory Area and Map
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Contact information
What are PFAS and PFOS?
PFAS are human-made chemicals that are resistant to heat, water, and oil. PFOS is one type of PFAS. For decades, PFAS have been used in industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, waterproof clothing, upholstery, food wrappings, personal care products, fire-fighting foams, and metal plating. PFAS have been found at low levels both in the environment and in the blood in a majority of the U.S. population.
PFAS do not easily break down in the environment and can persist in soils for a very long time. They can also build up over time in the blood and organs of wild game, fish, farm animals, and humans that are exposed to these chemicals through the food they eat and the water they drink. Studies of people who were exposed to PFAS have found links between the amount of chemicals in blood and increased cholesterol levels, decreased response to vaccines, increased liver enzymes, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.
Background of PFAS in Maine
Why MDIFW tested wildlife in the Fairfield area
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) first began investigating PFAS contamination in 2016 when milk at a dairy farm in Arundel, Maine was found to contain high levels of PFOS. In 2020, DACF and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) detected PFOS on two Fairfield dairy farms. Learn more about DACF’s and DEP's Fairfield investigations.
DEP is also actively investigating the presence of PFAS in Maine from the land application of sludge and/or septage. DEP has prioritized these sites into four Tiers (I, II, III, IV) to designate the approximate schedule for sampling. Tier I and Tier II testing is underway. DACF is working closely with DEP to assist with any sites that may be active agricultural operations. Learn more about DEP's land application investigation.
MDIFW PFAS Investigation
In collaboration with other state agencies, MDIFW began to evaluate PFAS levels in wildlife in the greater Fairfield area in 2021. MDIFW targeted areas known to have among the highest soil PFAS levels measured in the state. A total of eight deer were harvested in late October 2021 and test results were available in late November 2021. High levels of the chemical PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) were found in five of the eight deer in areas known to have high PFOS soil and surface water levels. In deer from the Ohio Hill area, PFOS levels in meat were high enough to warrant a recommendation to eat less than 2 to 3 meals per year. PFOS levels were much lower in the three other adult deer collected from areas surrounding known contaminated fields. Levels in these three deer were still high enough to recommend limits on eating meat.
Upon receiving these results, and out of an abundance of caution for public health, the Maine CDC and MDIFW issued a “Do Not Eat” advisory in November of 2021. Because test results were available for only eight deer, the decision was made to extend a "Do Not Eat" advisory to the greater Fairfield area (~125 square miles) until additional testing for PFOS contamination in deer was complete.
To have a broader understanding of PFAS impacts on wildlife, MDIFW expanded its testing efforts in the greater Fairfield area in 2022. New results from tissues of 60 deer and 51 wild turkeys showed that only animals harvested from the most highly contaminated fields had detectable levels of PFAS/PFOS in muscle tissue. In 2023, MDIFW and the Maine CDC reduced the original “Do Not Eat” advisory boundary from 125 square miles to 25 square miles (PDF).
Do Not Eat Advisory Area
The original greater Fairfield "Do Not Eat" advisory area, established in November 2021, was 125 square miles and included all of Fairfield and parts of Skowhegan, Norridgewock, Smithfield, Oakland, Waterville, and Benton. The original boundary was established out of an abundance of caution and based on seasonal range for deer (PDF).
The updated advisory area extends from the center of Fairfield, where Bridge Street (Route 11/100/139) crosses the Kennebec River traveling upriver into Skowhegan, then travels west across the land from the Kennebec River to where the Varney Road terminates at Waterville Road (Route 201), then west on Varney Road until it intersects with Middle Road (Route 104), then south on Middle Road (Route 104) until it intersects with Norridgewock Road (Route 104/139), then southeast on Norridgewock Road (Route 104/139) until it intersects Center Road (Route 139), then east on Center Road (Route 139) / Western Avenue (Route 139) until it intersects with Main Street (Route 201/139), then south on Main Street (Route 201/139) until it intersects with Bridge Street (Route 11/100/139), then east on Bridge Street (Route 11/100/139) to the point of origin with the Kennebec River on Bridge Street (Route 11/100/139) in Fairfield.Deer and wild turkey harvested in the Do Not Eat advisory area should not be eaten.
Frequently Asked Questions
For deer or wild turkey harvested within the advisory area, are there any organs or parts safe to eat?
No. Do not eat any deer or wild turkey meat or organs taken from within the "Do Not Eat" advisory area (PDF).
Can’t I just cook it to get rid of the PFOS/PFAS or trim away the fat?
No. You cannot get rid of PFOS/PFAS by cooking the meat or organs. PFOS/PFAS is mostly in the meat and organs rather than the fat.
How long will the "Do Not Eat" advisory be in place?
It is unknown how long the advisory will be in place. Fields with a history of biosolids application still have high levels of PFOS in the soil and some surface waters many years after the last application.
Is it safe to eat fish harvested in this area?
Fish tested in several waterbodies within and nearby the “Do Not Eat” advisory area have been found to have levels of PFAS above Maine CDC's recommended levels for regular consumption. Learn more about safe eating guidelines for freshwater fish.
What should I do with venison in my freezer from the PFAS "Do Not Eat" advisory area?
If the deer or wild turkey was harvested within the current “Do Not Eat” advisory area, we recommend that you do not eat it because there is a possibility that it could have a high level of contamination. If you choose to throw away meat harvested in the advisory area, it can be disposed of by depositing it in the trash or a landfill.
How can I have harvested game tested? Can I take a deer or wild turkey to a check station to have it tested for PFAS?
PFAS testing is expensive and there are a limited number of laboratories nationally that can test meat for PFAS. At this time they are focused on accepting samples from State Fish and Wildlife agencies and other research organizations, and are not accepting samples from the public or at registration stations.
What if I’ve already eaten venison or wild turkey from this area?
If you or your family have eaten deer or wild turkey from the updated 2023 “Do Not Eat” advisory area, it doesn’t necessarily mean the animal had high PFOS levels nor does it mean you or your family will become ill. However, if the game was harvested from the advisory area, we recommend no longer eating the meat or organs. Your risk of any health effects will depend on how much game from this area you have eaten, and how many years you have harvested deer or wild turkey from this area.
I’ve eaten venison or wild turkey from this area. Should I have my blood tested?
Blood tests are available that can measure the amount of PFAS in blood at the time it is collected. Because these PFAS chemicals persist in your body for a long time, a blood test is a measure of your exposure of years. However, the test cannot tell you where the PFAS came from, or if the PFAS has or will cause health problems.
According to the United States (U. S.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people in the U. S. have some amount of PFAS in their blood, especially PFOA and PFOS. There is no medical treatment to remove PFAS from blood.
If you have questions about your PFOS exposure from eating deer, blood testing to measure your exposure, or possible health effects, please contact one of our toxicologists at 866-292-3474 (toll-free in Maine), 207-287-4311, or Maine Relay 711.
If you’re thinking about having your blood tested for PFAS, talk to your doctor. You may find the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine recent report on blood testing and health monitoring helpful for sharing with your doctor.
What about other parts of the state? Is it still safe to eat deer or wild turkey taken from places in the state?
At this time, only wildlife in the Fairfield area have been sampled and evaluated for PFAS in muscle tissue. Additional testing will begin in the Unity area in 2023, another area of the state identified by the DEP as having significant PFAS soil contamination.
Can hunters help the state harvest deer for testing?
Not at this time. While we appreciate people interested in supplying samples or assisting the Department with testing efforts, the sampling protocol is very specific to avoid any potential cross-contamination from other materials that could result in a false-positive.
Where can people hunt?
If hunters wish to avoid the "Do Not Eat" advisory area, we recommend checking out one of the many Wildlife Management Areas in central Maine.
I still have questions, who can I contact?
Please contact MDIFW at 207-287-8000, or at IFW.PFAS@maine.gov. The MECDC can be contacted at 866-292-3474 (toll-free in Maine), 207-287-4311, or Maine Relay 711. If you have questions about different areas where biosolids were spread or tested, please email MEDEP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information related to the impact to agriculture, visit the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources website.