Numerous investigations studying multiple populations across a variety of environmental settings have demonstrated a strong association between ambient air particulate matter and cardiopulmonary morbidity and mortality. In most studies, the effect size of ambient air particulate pollution on health outcomes is small. However, the exposed population worldwide is very large. Accordingly, particulate air pollution appears to be an important public health hazard that makes an important contribution to the total burden of disease and death in populations across the world. Much of the evidence linking ambient air particulates with adverse health effects is derived from population-based, observational research with potential unidentified confounding exposures, precluding definitive assessments about causation and providing limited mechanistic insights. A growing body of research suggests particulate-associated adverse health effects result from the induction of proinflammatory responses in the lower respiratory tract. Ambient air particulates may increase lung cancer risk.