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Journal of Environmental and Public Health
Volume 2010, Article ID 260525, 14 pages
Research Article

Navajo Coal Combustion and Respiratory Health Near Shiprock, New Mexico

1Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Mail Stop 956, Reston, VA 20192, USA
2Diné Environmental Institute, Diné College, 1228 Yucca Street, P.O. Box 580, Shiprock, NM 87420, USA
3School of Public Health, George Washington University, 2300 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA

Received 18 December 2009; Accepted 23 April 2010

Academic Editor: Joachim Heinrich

Copyright © 2010 Joseph E. Bunnell et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Indoor air pollution has been identified as a major risk factor for acute and chronic respiratory diseases throughout the world. In the sovereign Navajo Nation, an American Indian reservation located in the Four Corners area of the USA, people burn coal in their homes for heat. To explore whether/how indoor coal combustion might contribute to poor respiratory health of residents, this study examined respiratory health data, identified household risk factors such as fuel and stove type and use, analyzed samples of locally used coal, and measured and characterized fine particulate airborne matter inside selected homes. In twenty-five percent of homes surveyed coal was burned in stoves not designed for that fuel, and indoor air quality was frequently found to be of a level to raise concerns. The average winter 24-hour concentration in 20 homes was 36.0 g/. This is the first time that has been quantified and characterized inside Navajo reservation residents' homes.