The APHEA 2 project investigated short-term health effects of particles in eight European cities. In each city associations between particles with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 10 microm (PM(10)) and black smoke and daily counts of emergency hospital admissions for asthma (0-14 and 15-64 yr), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and all-respiratory disease (65+ yr) controlling for environmental factors and temporal patterns were investigated. Summary PM(10) effect estimates (percentage change in mean number of daily admissions per 10 microg/m(3) increase) were asthma (0-14 yr) 1.2% (95% CI: 0.2, 2.3), asthma (15-64 yr) 1.1% (0.3, 1.8), and COPD plus asthma and all-respiratory (65+ yr) 1.0% (0.4, 1.5) and 0.9% (0.6, 1.3). The combined estimates for Black Smoke tended to be smaller and less precisely estimated than for PM(10). Variability in the sizes of the PM(10) effect estimates between cities was also investigated. In the 65+ groups PM(10) estimates were positively associated with annual mean concentrations of ozone in the cities. For asthma admissions (0-14 yr) a number of city-specific factors, including smoking prevalence, explained some of their variability. This study confirms that particle concentrations in European cities are positively associated with increased numbers of admissions for respiratory diseases and that some of the variation in PM(10) effect estimates between cities can be explained by city characteristics.