An epidemiologic study has demonstrated that asphalt workers show increased loss of lung function and an increase of biomarkers of inflammation over the asphalt paving season. The aim of this study was to investigate which possible agent(s) causes the inflammatory reaction, with emphasis on ultrafine particles. The workers' exposure to total dust, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and NO(2) was determined by personal sampling. Exposure to ultrafine particles was measured by means of particle counters and scanning mobility particle sizer mounted on a van following the paving machine. The fractions of organic and elemental carbon were determined. Asphalt paving workers were exposed to ultrafine particles with medium concentration of about 3.4 x 10(4)/cm(3). Ultrafine particles at the paving site originated mainly from asphalt paving activities and traffic exhaust; most seemed to originate from asphalt fumes. Oil mist exceeded occupational limits on some occasions. Diesel particulate matter was measured as elemental carbon, which was low, around 3 microg/m(3). NO(2) and total dust did not exceed limits. Asphalt pavers were exposed to relatively high concentrations of ultrafine particles throughout their working day, with possible adverse health effects.