Natural and synthetic fibres and particles are being introduced into the workplace and environment daily. Comparative analyses of the induced signalling pathways are essential in order to understand the potential hazards of these particles. To identify the molecular characteristics of particles and fibres, we selected crocidolite and chrysotile asbestos as representatives for fibered dust and titanium dioxide (TiO2) (100-200 nm), zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) (50-100 nm) and hematite (Fe2O3) (20 nm) as representatives for bio-persistent granular dust. SV-40 virus-transformed human bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) were exposed to well-defined fibres and particles. RT2 Profiler™ PCR Array Human Stress & Toxicity PathwayFinder was used to compare the relative mRNA expression of 84 genes. A detailed characterization of the dust samples used in this study was accomplished to ensure comparability to other studies. Investigation of mRNA expression of 84 signalling molecules attributed to pathways such as DNA damage and repair; oxidative/metabolic stress; growth arrest and senescence; inflammation, proliferation and carcinogenesis; and heat shock and apoptosis revealed that crocidolite and chrysotile asbestos induced mRNA expression of pathway molecules involved in proliferation and carcinogenesis, as well as inflammation. Titanium dioxide, zirconium dioxide and hematite mainly induced pathway molecules responsible for oxidative/metabolic stress and inflammation. Our findings suggest that the hazards of fibered dust mainly include the induction of direct toxicity by altering signalling pathways such as carcinogenesis and proliferation, while granular dust shows indirect toxicity by altering signalling pathways involved in inflammatory processes. PCR arrays, therefore, may be a helpful tool to estimate the hazard risk of new materials.