Women should avoid Iqaluit dumpcano smoke: health advisory

Women of child-bearing age are being warned to limit their exposure to smoke from Iqaluit's ongoing dump fire as a precaution, due to a possible risk of decreased fertility in their sons.

Women of child-bearing age are being warned to limit their exposure to smoke from Iqaluit's ongoing dump fire, because there is a possibility it could decrease fertility in any boys they might give birth to.

"The main reason for issuing the health advisory was to inform women, not to alarm them, but to inform women that there is a very small risk," says Dr. Geraldine Osbourne, Nunavut's acting medical officer of health. 

"It's just a precaution," she says. "It's just giving women the information so that they can make good health choices."

The latest air quality test results show the sum of the levels of dioxins and furans in Iqaluit's air exceed Ontario health standards. According to information released by the territory, the standard level is 0.1 pg/m3 (picograms per cubic metre), while the average level over 24 hours in Iqaluit is 0.2 pg/m3. 

Exposure to that level of dioxins could affect male offspring, but the Department of health says the standard level is "conservative."

Long-term exposure to high levels of dioxins is known to increase cancer risk, but Osbourne says "the levels of dioxins that we have measured are well below the health standard for cancer." 

"So cancer risk would not be my concern."

The government says levels of other air pollutants have been low and do not pose a threat to public health. 

Health officials recommend women of child-bearing age, along with those with heart or lung disease or asthma, as well as children, pregnant women and the elderly avoid the area around the dump fire and stay indoors as much as possible with the doors and windows closed.