This study was undertaken to determine whether there is an association between air pollutants levels and hospital admissions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Hospital admissions for COPD and ambient air pollution data for Kaohsiung were obtained for the period from 1996 to 2003. The odds ratio of hospital admission was estimated using a case-crossover approach, controlling for weather variables, day of the week, seasonality, and long-term time trends. In the single-pollutant models, on warm days (> or =25 degrees C) statistically significant positive associations were found in all pollutants except sulphur dioxide (SO2). On cool days (< 25 degrees C), all pollutants were significantly associated with COPD admissions. For the two-pollutant models, CO and O3 were significant in combination with each of the other four pollutants on warm days. On cool days, NO2 remained statistically significant in all the two-pollutant models. This study provides evidence that higher levels of ambient pollutants increase the risk of hospital admissions for COPD.