In recent decades, clinicians and scientists have witnessed a significant increase in the prevalence of allergic rhinitis and asthma. The factors underlying this phenomenon are clearly complex; however, this rapid increase in the burden of atopic disease has undeniably occurred in parallel with rapid industrialization and urbanization in many parts of the world. Consequently, more people are exposed to air pollutants than at any point in human history. Worldwide, increases in allergic respiratory disease have mainly been observed in urban communities. Epidemiologic and clinical investigations have suggested a strong link between particulate air pollution and detrimental health effects, including cardiopulmonary morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this review is to provide an evidence-based summary of the health effects of air pollutants on asthma, focusing on diesel exhaust particles (DEPs) as a model particulate air pollutant. An overview of observational and experimental studies linking DEPs and asthma will be provided, followed by consideration of the mechanisms underlying DEP-induced inflammation and a brief discussion of future research and clinical directions.