Published: April 23, 2018

Lupita MontoyaEVEN Prof. Lupita Montoya has been working on the Navajo Project, which aims to replace home heating stoves that potentially cause harmful indoor air pollution in Navajo Nation houses. The Navajo Nation is the largest sovereign Native American nation in the United States. Many of the Navajo people burn a combination of wood and coal in their homestoves, combustion that produces a mixture of harmful emissions such as fine and ultrafine particulate matter (PM), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and carbon monoxide (CO). In Shiprock, New Mexico, the largest city in the Navajo Nation, higher rates of hospitalization due to respiratory conditions are observed during the winter, when homes are being heated, than during the summer. A study of Navajo homes in and near Ft. Defiance, Arizona showed that, among Navajo children under two years old, wood stove use and high average PM10 indoor concentration were associated with increased prevalence of acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI).

In confronting the task of providing a stove replacement, Prof. Montoya and her colleagues utilized a community-science-based approach, meaning they heavily relied on community input and engagement. The daily lives of the Navajo people are strongly influence by their culture and traditions, and thus proposing heating alternatives that both reduced negative environmental and health effects and respected the Navajo culture was crucial. Wood fire is the traditional Navajo method of home heating and is widely accepted by the Navajo people. Wood pellet stoves, however, require electricity, and the Navajo people may view such a reliance on electricity dangerous to one’s well-being. Essential to understanding such cultural perceptions were a group of Navajo students at Dine College who worked with and were advised by Prof. Montoya. Ultimately, a perception, cultural, and technical assessment framework was adopted to evaluate heating alternatives deemed viable by Navajo stakeholders.

Hybrid Wood StoveA small, clean-burning wood or coal stove was the result of this research. New Hampshire’s Woodstock Soapstone Co. designed the now EPA-certified stove, which is listed as the Survival Hybrid Wood Stove on their website. The stove was installed in seven of the Navajo Nation houses this spring as a pilot study, and Prof. Montoya and her team are currently analyzing the data from that pilot study. Prof. Montoya will be presenting her work at CU, Stanford University, and San Jose University, as well as at the International Indoor Air Conference and the International Aerosols Conference. She is also preparing a proposal to conduct a much larger study evaluating the stove intervention and the desired health improvements.

Papers Published about the Project:

The Stove: