DNR toxicologist explains how PFAS are in deer liver tissueSubmitted: 09/16/2020
Story By Morgan Johnson

DNR toxicologist explains how PFAS are in deer liver tissue
- We know there's PFAS chemicals in some Northern water sources, but a recent sample from a DNR shows that the chemicals can be found in animals as well.

Researchers tested 20 deer in the Marinette-Peshtigo area by collecting muscle, heart, and liver tissues. Of the 20 deer, only one had levels of PFAS in the muscle tissue and two had levels in heart tissue. But all 20 deer had concerning PFAS levels in the liver tissue.

Why were PFAS levels so high in the liver?

DNR environmental toxicologist Sean Strom said it's simply based on the deer's physiology.

"One of the functions of the liver is to filter out contaminants from the bloodstream," Strom said. "So part of what our results show us is that the liver is doing its job. It's filtering out these contaminants. As a result of filtering out the contaminants from the blood, they accumulate in the liver."

Strom added that deer are not the first animal the DNR has tested for PFAS chemicals.

"We've detected PFAS in a lot of different wildlife species, which is kind of an indication of the ubiquitous nature of PFAS--that it's everywhere," Strom said.

Testing for PFAS chemicals in wildlife species is a relatively new area of study to the DNR so they don't have all the answers just yet.

"PFAS in wildlife is a growing area of interest so we don't know what levels would impact wildlife like deer or any other sort of wildlife," Strom said.

But, some residents are concerned about consuming the venison.

Strom says right now there's no reason to worry about the animal populations or eating deer.

"We've done a lot of work with bald eagles but then have done a little bit of work looking at waterfowl and various small mammals. But as of right now we have no reason to believe that those numbers are impacting any of those populations."

The DNR plans to test additional randomly-collected deer around the state later this year.

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