Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit July 04, 2014 - 1:30 pm

Pregnant Nunavut mom worried about dump smoke toxins

“I don’t want my baby to breathe that for its first breath of life”

Iqaluit's Julie Alivaktuk is expecting her first child in 10 days. She's frustrated with how smoke from the dump is impacting her health and worries about how it will affect her baby. The word on her hand reads,
Iqaluit's Julie Alivaktuk is expecting her first child in 10 days. She's frustrated with how smoke from the dump is impacting her health and worries about how it will affect her baby. The word on her hand reads, "taima," or "enough," in English. (PHOTO COURTESY JULIE ALIVAKTUK)

As the Iqaluit dump fire continues to belch out smoke and dust, one pregnant mother says she’s had enough.

Julie Alivaktuk, who is expecting her first born within the next 10 days, is worried about the damaging effects that the chemical-filled dump fire smoke might have on her newborn.

“I don’t want my baby to breathe that for its first breath of life,” Alivaktuk said.

Alivaktuk and her boyfriend, Shawn Inuksuk, decided to take action.

On July 3, Alivaktuk donned a surgical mask and posed in front of the smouldering dump’s ground zero area with a message on her hand written in syllabics.

“Taima,” the message reads. “Stop. Enough,” Alivaktuk said.

Inuksuk snapped the photo and posted it on Facebook. Since then, more than 100 people have ‘liked’ the photo and more than 100 people have shared the photo on their personal Facebook accounts.

“The right to clean air is the most basic of human rights,” Inuksuk wrote in the comments section of his photo.

The message is simple, Alivaktuk said: the city needs to put the fire out.

“We feel strongly about it. We want people to know what’s going on. And I think other people feel the same way. So we feel we’ve given a voice to other people.” 

Since the dump fire started smoking May 20, Alivaktuk said she’s been less active around the community.

Exercise is important for expecting mothers. In a Nunavut Healthy Living guideline, it says keeping active while pregnant can help mothers relax and sleep better.

Activity also helps build stamina for labour and delivery, as well as recovery after labour. 

“I have to stay inside, and I like going for walks, and I want to be active and I want to be healthy,” Alivaktuk said.

“I want to be out with my kid when he’s here. So it really worries me that I have to stay in all the time. And kids like to play outside too, and it’s not good for them to stay inside the house all the time,” Alivaktuk said.

What’s more worrisome for her is how smoke from the fire might affect the baby right now.

“I feel that my baby will have lung problems, or who knows what kind of problems that it will bring to this baby?” Alivaktuk said.

“To breathe in this kind of air, it’s like they’re smoking themselves — like smoking a cigarette, basically.”

In a July 4 public service announcement, the Government of Nunavut gave an update on the city’s air quality.

“To date, 24-hour average air pollution concentrations have been low, and are below established health standards,” the PSA read. “There are occasional spikes in pollutant levels that are relatively short.”

That information is based on air monitoring stations located at the Four Corners and the armed forces base.

However, the smoke still may have an impact on people with heart or lung disease, as well as the elderly, young people, and pregnant woman, the PSA said.

It warned that “vulnerable” people should stay indoors when the smoke blows into town.

“People should seek medical attention if they have symptoms such as trouble breathing or tightness in the chest,” the PSA said.

Not all the data is in, however, and more results from another five testing areas in Iqaluit are still to come. 

“Further updates will be provided as new information comes in. Testing will continue until the dump fire is extinguished,” said the government notice.
Although it’s unknown exactly what chemicals are in the dump fire smoke, a landfill fire expert Dr. Tony Sperling said he reckons there are “nasties” contained therein.

Others say the smoke could contain cancerous chemicals such as furans and dioxins. 

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(52) Comments:

#1. Posted by Wish on July 04, 2014

I empathize with Julie’s concerns.

Now, I wish we saw this much outrage and concern over the 80% of Inuit mothers who smoke while pregnant. Not to mention the ones who do drugs and drink!

#2. Posted by money versus time on July 04, 2014

I’m sure this will bump up this individual’s personal recognition a bit on facebook, but no amount of facebook likes will change the reality around the dump fire.

Either a lot of money is going to have to be spent to put it out in a few weeks. Or, the population is just going to have to put up with the fact that this thing is going to burn for several months more at least.

Those are the only two outcomes.

There’s no quick and easy fix to this problem.

#3. Posted by Jennifer on July 04, 2014

I also empathize, sympathize, etc. with this woman.  Perhaps…just an idea here….the city council should immediately hold an emergency meeting and put a STOP to any further development for the pool, re-diverting funds to where they are needed most.

#4. Posted by Subliminal Message Backward Pop is Pop on July 04, 2014

Where’s Smokey the Bear when we need him, or should it be Arctic Char the Extinguisher.

On the Other hand with the comments I’ve been seeing lately on Nunatsiaqonline, there’s always this or that about how the inuit are being portrait, especially in a negative way, is there a supremacist movement happening in Nunavut that I do not see? It’s getting kind of disturbing to see comments being posted like these, they might be facts, but we are not the only culture who is doing these things,

Extinguish this fire Arctic Char Extuinguisher, it’s not pleasant to walk and have barbeque and see the char at the national park, Sylvia Grinnel

#5. Posted by Crystal Clarity on July 04, 2014



#6. Posted by DUH on July 04, 2014

If the fire is so horrible and toxic maybe don’t stand right next to it just to take a silly facebook picture. Surgical masks are NOT gas masks. Stay away pregnant lady. DUH

#7. Posted by hili on July 04, 2014

In response to subliminal message. Its called colonialism. Inuit have been and continue to be misrepresented by the mass media.

#8. Posted by Anyone? on July 04, 2014

Is anyone else surprised that someone who is so fearful of the impact of the dump smoke on the health of their unborn child, would drive all the way down to the dump to be practically on top of the source of the hazardous smoke, just to add extra zing to a photo-op?

While not being able to leave the home would become tedious, would it not be more prudent to stay inside rather than expose the fetus to even more toxic smoke than is necessary?

#9. Posted by Broken Record on July 04, 2014

#7 Could you please give us an example of the negative representation of Inuit in mass media that you are talking about? Just one good one.

#4 is at least honest that some of these criticisms “might be facts”. If you’re talking about comment #1 well, yes it is mostly fact.

I suppose your idea of what decolonizing might look like is when all ‘outsiders’ just watch and shut up, right?

In this case you should consider the fact that those may be the only people saying anything on behalf of those Inuit children.

Shame on you for brushing off the real issues.

#10. Posted by If this were to happen in the south there would be on July 04, 2014

Good for you Julie and your partner for speaking out on this issue. It is extremely worrisome for everyone and especially pregnant women and newborns to have to breath this toxic air. How many cancers and other diseases will be a direct consequence of this inaction? The City should be worried about lawsuits and damages this dump fire will cause to their constituents’ health.

When they say in the Public Service Announcement that “vulnerable” people should stay indoors do they realize that it is not an option for everyone? People can’t be held hostage in their own homes ALL the time.

City of Iqaluit, Government of Nunavut, Government of Canada, Iqalummiut are begging you to put an end to this living nightmare. We all deserve clean air and the opportunity to preserve our health, which is the most important thing we have.

#11. Posted by YES!! on July 04, 2014

YOU GO GIRL!!!  Sick and tired of lies and downplaying by both levels of government.  We’ll all have cancer in 10 years time because of their failure to declare a state of emergency and to ACT APPROPRIATELY.

And sadly, that’s no joke.  We elect our governments to protect our interests - this is some basic level intervention here.  You can’t put a price tag on protecting the well being of the people that have elected you.

#12. Posted by butt out on July 04, 2014

@11 Ummn, Inuit in Nunavut already have some of the highest cancer rates in the entire country.  It’s not because of a dump fire or other environmental issues, it’s because roughly 60% of the population of Nunavut are regular smokers.

That’s no joke either, and people are sadly doing it to themselves.

#13. Posted by Class action anyone? on July 04, 2014

LET’S START A CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT.  If our governments want to keep sweeping this under the rug, then its time for the community to step up and force them.

#14. Posted by Putuguk on July 04, 2014

It is illegal under the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act for any Canadian to burn garbage down there.

However, the Indian Act Reserves Regulations gives the government power to approve garbage burning next to aboriginal communities in Canada. This must be mostly for bands that do not have any other waste disposal option, like our Hamlets.

I guess when it comes to toxic contamination, it is better to be a penguin than a native in this country?

#15. Posted by Bert Rose on July 04, 2014

Class Action Law Suit? Are you kidding? What would that do besides enrich some lawyers.
Let’s find and support ccity officials as they struggle too find the solution.

#16. Posted by Pijitsirniq on July 04, 2014

Dear Citizens of Iqaluit. You have had over 15 years to avoid this from happening and 95% (or more) of you did nothing but litteraly add to the problem. This was “guarnteed to happen” and instead of using your heads to think and be pro-active you have chose to burry them in the snow and avoid the obvious environmental catastrophy happening right in front of your eyes. Like nearly every other problem plaguing this territority it takes a “fire” to get your attention.

I just hope this serves as an example and you learn that covering over problems doesn’t fix them.

#17. Posted by Agreed on July 04, 2014

All she is saying just put it out like a lot of Iqaluit residents are saying just put it out or even make an effort to try and put it out with our own experts.
Just put it out and not make a new land fill yet.

#18. Posted by StinksLikeSmokersDo on July 04, 2014

We are so funny - we sure can all righteous about the chemicals in the Dump that are burning - while WE are the super dumb Smokers leading all of North America.

What do you think is in all the cigarettes we stick into ourselves ?  Chemicals - and many of the same ones.

We think it is normal to stand around being human chemical waste dumps and human chimneys ourselves from smoking, then get all upset when we have the same ones, as we give ourselves, at the Dump.

Smokers, smarten up - you are already doing dumb things to yourself.  Can’t you understand that?  Everyone else does.

So many people are tired of YOUR bad smell, after you smoke which spreads the same chemicals to them, that are on your clothes, your breath and your hair and skin.

Why complain about the danger from the Dump if you don’t understand the danger to you from cigarrettes?

#19. Posted by stranger on July 04, 2014

That dump has been burning for years. I remember going with my grandfater to that dump to rid our garbage when i was a child(im now 26)....enforce recycling, build a recycling plant, create some jobs. Puts less waste in the dump, wont stop the smoke but puts less waste there. And what else do you want to do with the garbage? Stuff it in the ground? Soil the earth? Ship it down south? ($$) build large filter systems over the fire?

#20. Posted by Get Real on July 04, 2014


#1. You are standing IN the dump. For a picture. Great job.
#2. More pollutants actually could beinhaled from all the cars and buses and every other vehicle in Ottawa/Toronto/Montreal, and yes, even Iqaluit than this. Are you going to sue them when you go there, too?
#3. Are you going to tell all the people smoking around you to stop? Dont care if it’s cigarettes or pot. Dont think so.
#4> To everyone else… you guys are pointing out a serious issue of this dump fire takiong so long. But seriously… It Is Not A Calamity, It Is Not going to kill you. How about finding a solution instead of whining?

You guys think the fumes coming off the lagoon during hot datys are good for ya? How about having a photo op on a boat in that mess?

Geezus some people have GOT to get a life.

#21. Posted by To # 12 on July 04, 2014

Ummm, we get cancer in Nunavut from hydrocarbons all over the place, from poor nutrition, from sedentary lifestyles, from exposure to asbestos, from breathing the dusty roads, from eating PCBs, from poor primary medical care, from stress of being unemployed, from stress from working with idiots, from vitamin deficiencies…

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

#22. Posted by Butt in on July 04, 2014

Hey Poster # 12,  does the increased incidence of cancer in inuit as compared to the general population of Canadians exactly match the increased rate of smoking in inuit?
You state that 60% of inuit smoke, which I assume is X times the national rate.  Do inuit also have X times the rate of cancer?

Are you referring to Inuit or Nunavummiut?

Or are you just pulling those statistics out of your as*?  Lets try to stay on topic here.  BIG BURNING DUMP

#23. Posted by Broken Record on July 04, 2014

#14 is Nunavut a reserve all of a sudden? Don’t you have a land claims agreement?

Whatever the problems there are with the Iqaluit dump they are problems rooted in the incompetence and or neglect of the civic government.

They are not sourced in some grand narrative whereby the poor native is once again neglected by the rest of the country.
Take some responsibility for yourself for once, will ya?

#24. Posted by hello, on July 04, 2014

Hey girl, your roots are from Pang. Maybe that awful dump will chase people to go back to their own community.
  There are too many people coming into Iqaluit. That’s why we have such a large dump.

#25. Posted by butt out on July 04, 2014

@22 No I’m not pulling these numbers out of my as* as you so ‘elegantly’ put it…

Here’s all the numbers here, compiled by the GN itself so you can’t play this off as some Southern conspiracy or whatnot.

Nothing to be proud of. And the topic of this particular story is the health effects of air pollution. People here are going on about suing the government over a few weeks/months of air pollution. Get real! Look at how much smoking is going on in the area, that’s the bigger health risk, especially with it not being restricted in many public places.

#26. Posted by 27 weeks pregnant on July 04, 2014

All people ever have to say are negative things! That’s all we ever see here on social media! How many of you actually go to public presentations and speak your mind like you do on here? Seriously! If you don’t mind smelling the nasty smell the dump fire is giving off so be it, be quiet! People are fed up, it’s true! I am! It’s disgusting! Being pregnant you can smell things 10 times more. Why should we be smelling this in the first place? There was a reason why they stopped burning garbage years ago! Why is it ok now??

I am pregnant and have asthma, not a good combo. All the city is doing is advising people with conditions like this to stay inside. We were inside all winter cause it was cold, now we have to stay in to during summer cause the city can’t afford there own mess? It’s a dump not a land fill, they got them selves in it they should have a way to get out.

Stop making us suffer.!

#27. Posted by #21 My new hero on July 04, 2014

#21 said, people in Nunavut are getting cancer for a number of reasons including “from stress from working with idiots”!

I couldn’t agree more! This place is infested with incompetent IDIOTS! It’s totally UNREAL!

Sadly I fear you are right about the long term effects.

#28. Posted by Bob Mesher on July 04, 2014

If your baby is breathing dump smoke, its not the baby’s fault and its not the dump management’s fault. A little overdramatic perhaps?

#29. Posted by np on July 04, 2014

When it rains it is God crying for humanity after reading the comments section of this site.

things like go back to Pang….not very IQ is it?

#30. Posted by Yikes on July 05, 2014

Yes the answer is Inuit Women lead all women in Canada in cancer deaths.

Sad but true.  What are we going to do about it?

In the south, so many people have woken up about the danger and quit - when are we going to quit up in Nunavut?

Inuit men are not far behind in death rates.

So there is proof that all that puffing really is killing Inuit faster and more than anyone else.

Why would the Inuit Nation want to wipe themselves out like this?  Maybe they should stop smoking????

#31. Posted by Smokers on July 05, 2014

85% of pregnant Inuit women smoke cigarettes.  Where is the public shaming of those girls/women that poison their fetuses?

#32. Posted by recycle..recycle..recycle! on July 05, 2014

Iqaluit City Counsel members have all been here most of their lives if not a several of years.  We’ve had a recycling Centre a very long time with no support to start recycling more than bottles and cans.  Support and start working with our only recycling company, and the one that had an article on composting.  You have to do this now! As a beneficiary I would like to see everyone of the Inuit Organizations to be part of the funders to make this happen on my behalf!  Inuit Organizations step in now your beneficiaries health are in jeopardy.

#33. Posted by Fred Bauder on July 05, 2014

This is typical of the dead dead wood who draw salaries without being effective in solving basic problems. You are not alone. Doing squat and drawing a big salary is the universal practice of all parasites. Give them the bum’s rush….

#34. Posted by neutralobserver on July 05, 2014

I don’t know where the misinformation in these comments is coming from, as writers are not citing their source. The latest Health Canada figures show that 58% of Inuit are smokers. Some brands of cigarettes today do not contain chemicals, only tobacco. Toxicants are released by heat. The toxics from the dump fire should be avoided by any means to protect human health.

#35. Posted by This is nothing! on July 05, 2014

For most of the past couple of months the wind has kept the smoke away.  What a bunch of complainers here with no initiative or alternatives offered.  Start recycling and reusing the plastics instead of bitching!

#36. Posted by butt out more.. on July 05, 2014

@34 Yay…only 58% of Inuit are smokers…meaning only 42% of Inuit do not smoke.

Are you really trying to sell these numbers as a positive?

By the way, the data from that survey is 8 years old in some places, 12 years old in others. It also says that 46% of Inuit start smoking by age 14 or younger. So there’s pretty much an entire decades worth of kids that’s been born since then, Roughly 46% of which are new smokers.

Yeah, those are numbers to be proud of…

#37. Posted by No future without your young on July 06, 2014

#34 and #36 the latest estimate I’ve heard on smoking by Inuit women is 64% (Nelson, 2012) which is down from the 80% cited on the ITK website in 2010.

It’s still way too high, and raises the same concerns as with the dump fire. Such as:

Higher risk of premature birth, higher risk of infant mortality, small-for-gestational-age, respiratory distress, congenital anomalies, lifetime cognitive impairment (return on education money will always be low as long as these children are impaired from birth).

This story is about the concern for what the chemicals released from the dump fire might have. Those are valid concerns and people have a right to ask and be upset. This is, however, an acute problem that can be fixed.

On the other hand smoking while pregnant has the same effects and is an ongoing chronic problem with far more prolific reach through the entire territory. So why isn’t there a more public campaign, more public outrage focused on this?

Why so much silence?

#38. Posted by bob gabuna on July 06, 2014

Interesting comments.
Some are wise; some are provocative; some are helpful; some are just “tired” remarks.
I can a imagine if a public meeting is held over this embering or burning issue.
The meeting hall might be in blaze - smokeless; but fire and brimstone might consume the meeting, eh?

#39. Posted by In Awe on July 07, 2014

First of all,,,,,, The lady so concerned about the first breath of her baby,,,,,, What are you doing at the dump to get the picture?

Second,,,,,,, Iqaluit, the capital, there was the big municipal strike right after Iqaluit became the capital, then there was the infamous potholes, now Iqaluit residents have had to contend with the burning of the dump for months. When will Iqaluit become the capital it was meant to be.

#40. Posted by Fred Bauder on July 07, 2014

“When will Iqaluit become the capital it was meant to be” Everybody’s got to grow up sometime. Good luck with that.

#41. Posted by cheesh on July 07, 2014

@ poster #12 “butt out” - your comment is presumptuous and totally irrelevant.  If 60 percent of Inuit smoke and take the risk of one day developing cancer - that’s their issue.  What about the 40 percent who don’t smoke?  Or those of us that choose to put the right things in our bodies to ward off disease?  According to your comment, we are supposed to stand quietly by and put up with the City’s laziness and inadequacies just because “60 percent of people are giving themselves cancer anyways?”  Come on.  I pay taxes for this (re: my safety) - yet the people I elect are more concerned with a swimming pool we can’t afford.

#42. Posted by ExSmoker on July 07, 2014

I was one of those human chimneys. At the time I never realized how pitiful I looked to the non-smokers when I was outside in the wind, rain and blizzards puffing away looking dumb with everyone else   I could not smell myself or the crap in the cigarette that got on me   I didn’t know it was on my breath and everyone around me was forced to suck it in from my hair and clothes whether they smoked or not
I didn’t try to be ignorant I just didn’t know I showered every day then lit up and stunk myself up so the shower was for nothing   Now that I quit I can smell all of these chemicals and I hate that smell I want other people to stop trying to die and start living without smoking I will not go out with a girl who smokes because she stinks No shower is going to change that, no bath no perfume can cover up that smell on her

#43. Posted by on July 07, 2014

@41 It’s not just the smokers who are taking the risk of developing cancer.  It’s all the people around them and living with them, their husbands, wives, and kids. Second hand smoke is just as dangerous as being a first hand smoker. What about the rights of “those” people? Or are you going to say that their right to be healthy is somehow less than a smokers right to hurt themselves?

I’m not saying that the dump fire isn’t a health risk. It is.  I just think it’s silly for some people, many of whom are likely smokers, to start writing on here about suing the city for damage to their health. No doubt some are writing on here with one hand while they have a cancer stick in the other.

#44. Posted by Peter on July 07, 2014

So this young lady wants something done to stop the dump fire and all some of you can point your finger to is that different percentage of Inuit smoke.
Good way of deflecting the situation, the dump fire. Wonder while this society is where it is today.

#45. Posted by luke on July 08, 2014

I won’t go with girls who smoke either and I know some of my female friends have said they will not go with guys who smell that bad seems like we are getting smarter about our health

#46. Posted by Jennifer on July 08, 2014

Again, people of Iqaluit, spending millions on an ‘aquatic center’ in your community is absolutely ridiculous for several reasons, the most important of which is the city cannot afford it when basic infrastructure is not in place!!!  Get together and show up at council meetings, someone start a petition and go around town gathering signatures,take a stand and demand that the money meant for that be directed to something more practical, useful, and necessary!!!  Continuing with that pool is like putting granite counter tops in a kitchen, where the sink leaks and the stove doesn’t work…stupid and ridiculous and irresponsible.

#47. Posted by Fred Bauder on July 08, 2014

The little town I live in has the same sort of problems; they have a half a million dollar grant for a beautification project but the basic needs of the residents are not served. The grant, you see, offers an opportunity to pass out goodies, while serving the public requires work. They view political office as an opportunity for profit, not as a job that needs to be done.

#48. Posted by Juvenal on July 08, 2014

#46 and #47 Absolutely, this has been going on since the beginnings of political organization of any kind.

“The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things — bread and circuses!”

#49. Posted by huh? on July 08, 2014

@#43 Civic Boy…

I’m not sure what your point is?  I agree with you on the second hand smoke issue - and smoking in general.  Except - this article is about the DUMP smoke, and my comments are limited to my strong preference to live in my community where my health is taken seriously and of primary importance to those we elect.  You are likely right in assuming some of the complaints are coming from people who don’t make the best personal choices.  However, I and many others aren’t among them and deserve better effort from the Municipality.  Taima.

#50. Posted by shawn innuksuk on July 08, 2014

Dramatic? Maybe so. Overly concerned? No. It smells like burning tires. Come visit the iqaluit baby nursery and come see for yourself what we are subjecting babys to.

#51. Posted by nursey on July 08, 2014

Working in a hospital you can see the damage smoking does to newborns and even before that in the womb.

When they are born they are not alert, they are not active and you can tell Mom is a Smoker.

When a lady comes in who does not smoke and her baby is born you really can see the difference.  Her baby scores higher on the testing done right at birth, they are more alert, connect better and are more observant.

I always ask myself how a Mom or Mom To Be can do that damage to a poor little baby?

#52. Posted by Skraelings on July 10, 2014

#51, I’m suspect your answer lies somewhere between stupidity and ignorance.

Well, just look where you are.

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