Dioxin taints state game along the Tittabawassee River, officials say

September 14, 2004, 1:50 AM

DETROIT (AP) -- A warning against eating wild game is being issued by state officials who say dioxin levels downstream from Midland's Dow Chemical Co. complex have become dangerous.

The Michigan Department of Community Health was to issue an advisory Tuesday against eating wild turkey meat or deer liver and urge consumers to limit consumption of venison and squirrel harvested in or near at least 22 miles of the floodplain along the Tittabawassee River.

Although numerous of advisories exist for fish tainted with toxic chemicals, it is only the second time the state has issued such a warning for land animals, officials said.

"We don't issue advisories like this on a whim," T.J. Bucholz, community health spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press for a Tuesday story. "This is rooted in serious health concerns."

Dow officials, in the midst of negotiations with the state about cleanup of dioxins in the region, said they agreed with part of the advisory but contended state regulators have overstated the risks from venison.

Dioxins, a group of chemicals created by incineration and chemical manufacturing, are linked to altered metabolism, hormonal changes and increases in diabetes and cancers.

Other game species also may be contaminated with dioxins, state experts said. But the advisory is limited to the three types of animals included in the Dow study.

"These toxins are accumulating in land animals that are fairly low on the food chain," reads a state Department of Environmental Quality analysis of the Dow study. "As these animals are eaten by their predators, further biomagnification is expected."

Biomagnification refers to increased contamination of animals higher in the food chain.

The advisory that was to be released Tuesday is based on a Dow-funded study released in July.

The study showed higher levels of dioxin in meat tested downstream of the plant, where large amounts of the potent chemical were released into the air and water in the first half the 1900s.

Meat from deer downstream of the complex had dioxin up to seven times higher than upstream venison, according to a state review of the data. Squirrel meat was up to 40 times higher, turkey meat up to 66 times higher and deer livers up to 118 times higher.

Anne Ainsworth, a spokeswoman for Dow, said the company agrees with the advice against eating deer liver or turkey skin. But "we still conclude that individuals who consume venison, squirrel or turkey with the skin off taken south of Midland would incur no greater exposure than by eating meat, fish or poultry from the national food supply," Ainsworth wrote in an e-mail.

It was unclear Monday how far away from the river's banks the advisory would affect.

The only other such wild game advisory was issued in 1981, said Steve Schmitt, veterinarian in charge of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Laboratory.

That advisory was issued for pheasant, grouse, raccoon, muskrat and opossums harvested near the Gratiot County landfill, where PBBs -- man-made chemicals that were banned in 1976 -- were polluting the ecosystem. That advisory was lifted in 1995.


Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com


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