Several chronic inhalation bioassays of poorly soluble, nonfibrous particles have resulted in an increased incidence of lung tumors in rats, no increase in lung tumors in Syrian hamsters, and inconsistent results in mice. These results have raised concerns that rats may be more prone than other species to develop persistent pulmonary epithelial hyperplasia, metaplasia, and tumors in response to the accumulation of inhaled particles. In addition, particle deposition and the rate of particle clearance from the lung differ between rats and primates, as does the anatomy of the centriacinar region. For these reasons, the usefulness of pulmonary carcinogenicity data from rats exposed to high concentrations of particles for quantitatively predicting lung cancer risk in humans exposed to much lower environmental or occupational concentrations has been questioned. The purpose of this investigation was to directly compare the anatomical patterns of particle retention and the lung tissue responses of rats and monkeys exposed chronically to high occupational concentrations of poorly soluble particles. Lung sections from male cynomolgus monkeys and F344 rats exposed 7 hr/day, 5 days/week for 24 months to filtered ambient air, diesel exhaust (2 mg soot/m3), coal dust (2 mg respirable particulate material/m3), or diesel exhaust and coal dust combined (1 mg soot and 1 mg respirable coal dust/m3) were examined histopathologically. The relative volume density of particulate material and the volume percentage of the total particulate material in defined pulmonary compartments were determined morphometrically to assess the relative amount and the anatomic distribution of retained particulate material. In all groups, relatively more particulate material was retained in monkey than in rat lungs. After adjustment for differences between rat and monkey controls, the coal dust- and the combined diesel exhaust and coal dust-exposed monkeys retained more particulate material than the coal dust- and the combined diesel exhaust and coal dust-exposed rats, respectively. There was no significant difference in the relative amount of retained particulate material between diesel exhaust-exposed monkeys and rats. Within each species, the sites of particle retention and lung tissue responses were the same for diesel soot, coal dust, and the combined material. Rats retained a greater portion of the particulate material in lumens of alveolar ducts and alveoli than monkeys. Conversely, monkeys retained a greater portion of the particulate material in the interstitium than rats. Rats, but not monkeys, had significant alveolar epithelial hyperplastic, inflammatory, and septal fibrotic responses to the retained particles. These results suggest that intrapulmonary particle retention patterns and tissue reactions in rats may not be predictive of retention patterns and tissue responses in primates exposed to poorly soluble particles at concentrations representing high occupational exposures.