Get checked, Nunavut top doc tells Iqaluit residents complaining of skin issues amid water crisis

·2 min read
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, says he hasn't heard about any formal diagnosis of water-related health impacts. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, says he hasn't heard about any formal diagnosis of water-related health impacts. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)

Nunavut's chief public health officer says Iqaluit residents complaining about skin irritations due to the water crisis should get checked out by their doctors.

Dr. Michael Patterson said he hasn't heard about any formal diagnosis of water-related health impacts.

"I've heard the rumours and stories, but I've not heard of anybody diagnosed with problems through their physician or through their interaction with the health care system," Patterson told CBC.

"Now is the season when the air is dry and a lot of chronic skin conditions get aggravated this time of year anyway. So it could be related to many other things, and it's important to get it checked out and get a proper diagnosis."

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

However, several residents of Iqaluit say they link the timing of their painful skin ailments to the start of the city's contaminated water crisis in October. Some have continued to use water they're not supposed to drink for bathing, washing and other household uses.

And some say their skin has broken out in welts, hives and rashes since then.

One woman, who had broken out in a rash, told CBC she was worried about bathing her baby. She, like others who provided details about their skin issues, declined to give her name.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell, meanwhile, said one of his three sons, who occasionally suffers from eczema and other allergies, developed a rash after taking a bath that he had shared with his brothers.

Only one of the boys broke out, Bell said, adding that he treated his son's rash with an over-the-counter antihistamine medicine. Whatever is in the water has bothered others with more sensitivity, Bell said. Some in Iqaluit have shared photos of their raw palms and rashes on social media.

"We know what's happening here," Bell said. "It's not a secret … It's just riding it out until we get to a better place here."

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

Bell has called a special city council meeting on Monday to release a timeline of the water crisis and provide test results on the water to the public.

State of emergency ongoing

Meanwhile, the Government of Nunavut continues to work on mobilizing the Canadian Armed Forces's water treatment equipment and distribution operations in Iqaluit.

The territorial government has extended the state of emergency in Iqaluit until Nov. 23 so residents will continue using bottled water, or water from the military's portable water purification system. A do not consume order is still in effect for the city's tap water.

The Health department told CBC in a statement that no public health notice is needed at this time about possible impacts to health.

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