Evaluation of Cellular Effects of Fine Particulate Matter from Combustion of Solid Fuels used for Indoor Heating on the Navajo Nation using a Stratified Oxidative Stress Response Model

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College of Natual Science and Mathematics, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Native Nation, Residential solid fuel heating, Stratified cellular oxidative stress response, Heme oxygenase-1, Inflammation, Tumor necrosis factor alpha


Communities in the Navajo Nation face public health burdens caused in part by the combustion of wood and coal for indoor heating using stoves that are old or in disrepair. Wood and coal combustion emits particulate matter (PM) with aerodynamic diameter < 2.5 μm (PM2.5), which can reach deep in the lung and cause injuries. Currently, there is little information about the health effects of wood and coal combustion-derived PM2.5 on Navajo Nation residents. This study tested the hypothesis that PM2.5 generated from solid fuel combustion in stoves commonly used by Navajo residents would induce stratified oxidative stress responses ranging from activation of antioxidant defense to inflammation and cell death in mouse macrophages (RAW 264.7). PM2.5 emitted from burning Ponderosa Pine (PP) and Utah Juniper (UJ) wood and Black Mesa (BM) and Fruitland (FR) coal in a stove representative of those widely used by Navajo residents were collected, and their aqueous suspensions used for cellular exposure. PM from combustion of wood had significantly more elemental carbon (EC) (15%) and soluble Ni (0.0029%) than the samples from coal combustion (EC: 3%; Ni: 0.0019%) and was also a stronger activator of antioxidant enzyme heme oxygenase-1 (11-fold increase vs. control) than that from coal (5-fold increase). Only PM from PP-wood (12-fold) and BM-coal (3-fold) increased the release of inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha. Among all samples, PP-wood consistently had the strongest oxidative stress and inflammatory effects. PM components, i.e. low-volatility organic carbon, EC, Cu, Ni and K were positively correlated with the cellular responses. Results showed that, at the concentrations tested, emissions from all fuels did not have significant cytotoxicity. These findings suggest that PM2.5 emitted from combustion of wood and coal commonly used by Navajo residents may negatively impact the health of this community.

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