The association between total daily mortality and air pollution was investigated for a 1-year period (September 1985 through August 1986) in St. Louis and in the counties in eastern Tennessee surrounding Kingston/Harriman. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relative importance of various measures of particulate and gaseous air pollution as predictors of daily mortality. Concentrations of inhalable particles (PM10), fine particles (PM2.5), the elemental composition of these particles, and aerosols acidity were measured daily during the period of study. The effect of each air pollutant on daily mortality was estimated after controlling for meteorologic and seasonal influences. Total mortality in St. Louis was found to increase 16% (95% CI-1 to 33%) for each 100 micrograms/m3 increase in PM10, and by 17% (95% CI-12 to 57%) in eastern Tennessee. Positive but progressively weaker associations were found with PM2.5, sulfate, and aerosol acidity concentrations in both communities. Associations with gaseous pollutants--sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone--were all far from statistical significance. Because of the short monitoring period for daily particulate air pollution, the power of this study to detect associations was limited. Nevertheless, statistically significant associations with PM10 were found in St. Louis, and, more importantly, the estimated effects were consistent between the two communities studied and with other reported analyses of the effects of particles on daily mortality. These data suggest that the acidity of particles is not as important in associations with daily mortality as the mass concentrations of particles.