An increase in participate matter in the atmosphere has been shown to be linked to increased mortality but this relationship is poorly understood. Light microscopy, electron microscopy, electron microprobe, and micro-FTIR techniques have been applied to study atmospheric particulates in Brisbane, Australia as a part of a study on asthma. The particulate matter samples were collected daily from April to August 1992, and the sampling covered the autumn period which is typically a time of high asthma incidence in Brisbane. Volumetrically, most atmospheric particulate matter is less than 2 ??m in size. The microscopic analysis reveals that this material is composed mainly of combusted and incompletely burned hydrocarbons from motor vehicle exhaust emissions, quiescent spores of Mucorales, soil bacteria, and inorganic matter in the form of quartz and other silicates. Elemental and functional group analyses confirm microscope identification, documenting carbon-rich, aromatic exhaust material, more aliphatic pollen and spore material and inorganic matter. Fungal spores dominate bioaerosol and are very abundant from the end of April through May to mid-June. The cytoplasmic content of pollens or fungal spores is commonly regarded as allergenic. Particulates from the exhaust emissions and crustal material in a sub-micrometer size range may act as carriers or dispersive mechanisms for cytoplasmic material from fungal spores and pollens, perhaps causing periods of the highest exhaust emission to be the most allergenic. ?? 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.