Residence in urban areas with much traffic has been associated with various negative health effects. However, the contribution of traffic emissions to these adverse health effects has not been fully determined. Therefore, the objective of this in vivo study is to compare the pulmonary and systemic responses of rats exposed to particulate matter (PM) obtained from various locations with contrasting traffic profiles. Samples of coarse (2.5 microm-10 microm) and fine (0.1 microm-2.5 microm) PM were simultaneously collected at nine sites across Europe with a high-volume cascade impactor. Six PM samples from various locations were selected on the basis of contrast in in vitro analysis, chemical composition, and traffic profiles. We exposed spontaneously hypertensive (SH) rats to a single dose (3 mg PM/kg body weight or 10 mg PM/kg body weight) of either coarse or fine PM by intratracheal instillation. We assessed changes in biochemical markers, cell differentials, and histopathological changes in the lungs and blood 24 h postexposure. The dose-related adverse effects that both coarse and fine PM induced in the lungs and vascular system were mainly related to cytotoxicity, inflammation, and blood viscosity. We observed clear differences in the extent of these responses to PM from the various locations at equivalent dose levels. There was a trend that suggests that samples from high-traffic sites were the most toxic. It is likely that the toxicological responses of SH rats were associated with specific PM components derived from brake wear (copper and barium), tire wear (zinc), and wood smoke (potassium).