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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

December 20, 2004

Contacts: Dean Rundle, (303) 289-0350                                                     Mark Sattelberg, (303) 966-5413


Contaminant Study Completed on Deer at Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site:

Study reveals actinide levels similar to deer found off-site

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing the final results of a deer tissue study conducted at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site to determine if the deer are safe for human consumption if hunting were allowed onsite Results indicate that the venison is as safe for human consumption as venison taken off-site.

Tissues were collected from 26 deer taken in December of 2002 during a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) study conducted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife All of the Rocky Flats deer tested negative for CWD.  Biologists collected lung, liver, muscle, kidney and bone tissues from each deer. For comparison, tissues were also collected from a deer from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (RMA).

Sixteen (16) of 85 tissue samples from the Rocky Flats deer had detectable levels of plutonium, americium, or uranium. Two of five tissue samples of the RMA deer had detectable levels Americium was detected in select lung, muscle, and kidney tissues of the Rocky Flats deer, and was also detected in kidney and liver tissues of the RMA deer.  Plutonium was only detected in bone samples from the Rocky Flats deer.  Uranium was detected in select liver and muscle tissues of the Rocky Flats deer, and was also detected in liver tissue of the RMA deer. All detections of radioactive elements in these tissues were at very low levels Historical studies of plutonium in deer tissues at Rocky Flats yielded similar results to those presented in this study A prior study, which included a wild deer from Cache La Poudre Canyon and a captive deer at Colorado State University, showed tissue activity levels similar to Rocky Flats and RMA deer.

To predict potential health risk resulting from eating Rocky Flats deer, a simple, but highly conservative estimate of risk was conducted The calculations were based on one person eating the entire deer in a year. The highest risk calculated was attributed to americium in muscle tissue of one deer, with tissue activity level (0.000449 pCi/g) translating to a 6.76 X 10-8 risk level This level of risk corresponds with a 1 in 14,700,000 increased chance of cancer resulting from eating the deer muscle This risk level falls under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable risk range of 1 X 10-4 to 1 X 10-6. 

The full report and an executive summary are on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Rocky Flats Web Site:  If access to the internet is not possible, a copy of the final report is available by contacting: Contaminant Biologist, Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Building 121, Commerce City, Colorado, 80222, (303) 966-5413.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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