Striking similarities have been observed in a number of extrapulmonary responses of rodents to seemingly disparate ambient pollutants. These responses are often characterized by primary decreases in important indices of cardiac and thermoregulatory function, along with secondary decreases in associated parameters. For example, when rats are exposed to typical experimental concentrations of ozone (O(3), they demonstrate robust and consistent decreases in heart rate (HR) ranging from 50 to 100 beats per minute, whereas core temperature (T(co) often falls 1.5-2.5 degrees C. Other related indices, such as metabolism, minute ventilation, blood pressure, and cardiac output, appear to exhibit similar deficits. The magnitudes of the observed decreases may be modulated by changes in experimental conditions and appear to vary inversely with both ambient temperature and body mass. More recent studies in which both healthy and compromised rats were exposed to either particulate matter or its specific components yielded similar results. The agents studied included representative examples of ambient, combustion, and natural source particles, along with individual or combined exposures to their primary metallic constituents. In addition to the substantial decreases in HR and T(co), similar to those seen with the O(3)-exposed rats, these animals also displayed numerous adverse changes in electrocardiographic waveforms and cardiac rhythm, frequently resulting in fatal outcomes. Although there is only limited experimental evidence that addresses the underlying mechanisms of these responses, there is some indication that they may be related to stimulation of pulmonary irritant receptors and that they may be at least partially mediated via the parasympathetic nervous system.