Particulate matter (PM) is the principal component of air pollution. PM includes a range of particle sizes, such as coarse, fine, and ultrafine particles. Particles that are <100 nm in diameter are defined as ultrafine particles (UFPs). UFPs are found to a large extent in urban air as both singlet and aggregated particles. UFPs are classified into two major categories based on their source. Typically, UFPs are incidentally generated in the environment, often as byproducts of fossil fuel combustion, condensation of semivolatile substances or industrial emissions, whereas nanoparticles are manufactured through controlled engineering processes. The primary exposure mechanism of PM is inhalation. Inhalation of PM exacerbates respiratory symptoms in patients with chronic airway diseases, but the mechanisms underlying this response remain unclear. This review offers insights into the mechanisms by which particles, including UFPs, influence airway inflammation and discusses several mechanisms that may explain the relationship between particulate air pollutants and human health, particularly respiratory health. Understanding the mechanisms of PM-mediated lung injury will enhance efforts to protect at-risk individuals from the harmful health effects of air pollutants.