Dump smoke not a threat, Nunavut’s top doc says

People with bad lungs should stay indoors when wind blows from south-west


The burning garbage at Iqaluit’s dump does not pose a significant health risk to local residents, says Nunavut’s chief physician.

“My sense is that the level of exposure and the duration of exposure that the residents of Iqaluit are going to experience from this incident will not be sufficient to result in any significant impact on human health,” said Isaac Sobol, the chief medical officer of health.

“I don’t equate a bad smell with an adverse health impact,” he told Nunatsiaq News.

However, he suggested people stay out of the area where the smell of the smoke is detectable.

“Due to the fact that the materials in the dump are varied, and may well result in toxic fumes which could be hazardous to human health, I would recommend that persons not enter or remain in an area in which there is a distinct odor from the fumes or fire, or in which there is obviously smoke from the fire in the immediate area,” he said in a press release.

Sobol said the exposure to the smoke would be “transient,” and limited to the periods where the wind blows from the south-southwest, from the dump to the city.

Iqaluit airport manager John Graham said the area’s prevailing winds are from the northwest, which will blow the landfill smoke into Frobisher Bay, away from the city.

Sobol said that when the wind is blowing the stink into town, people with chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma or tuberculosis should avoid physical exertion while outside, and should keep their windows closed.

If the dump fire lasts for months — as city staff say it may — Sobol said the health department would have to “reassess” the situation.

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