Household air pollution in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions is an important cause of disease burden. Little is known about the chemical composition and sources of household air pollution in sub-Saharan Africa, and how they differ between rural and urban homes. We analyzed the chemical composition and sources of fine particles (PM2.5) in household cooking areas of multiple neighborhoods in Accra, Ghana, and in peri-urban (Banjul) and rural (Basse) areas in The Gambia. In Accra, biomass burning accounted for 39-62% of total PM2.5 mass in the cooking area in different neighborhoods; the absolute contributions were 10-45 μg/m(3). Road dust and vehicle emissions comprised 12-33% of PM2.5 mass. Solid waste burning was also a significant contributor to household PM2.5 in a low-income neighborhood but not for those living in better-off areas. In Banjul and Basse, biomass burning was the single dominant source of cooking-area PM2.5, accounting for 74-87% of its total mass; the relative and absolute contributions of biomass smoke to PM2.5 mass were larger in households that used firewood than in those using charcoal, reaching as high as 463 μg/m(3) in Basse homes that used firewood for cooking. Our findings demonstrate the need for policies that enhance access to cleaner fuels in both rural and urban areas, and for controlling traffic emissions in cities in sub-Saharan Africa.