Exposure to airborne particulate matter has been linked to cardiovascular events. Whether this finding reflects an effect of particulate matter exposure on the triggering of events or development of atherosclerosis remains unknown. Using data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis collected at baseline (2000-2002), the authors investigated associations of 20-year exposures to particulate matter with measures of subclinical disease (coronary calcium, common carotid intimal-medial thickness, and ankle-brachial index) in 5,172 US adults without clinical cardiovascular disease. Particulate matter exposures for the 20 years prior to assessment of subclinical disease were obtained from a space-time model of Environmental Protection Agency monitor data linked to residential history data for each participant. Intimal-medial thickness was weakly, positively associated with exposures to particulate matter < 10 mu m in aerodynamic diameter and < 2.5 mu m in aerodynamic diameter after controlling for age, sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic factors, diet, smoking, physical activity, blood lipids, diabetes, hypertension, and body mass index (1-4% increase per 21-mu g/m(3) increase in particulate matter < 10 mu m in aerodynamic diameter or a 12.5-mu g/m(3) increase in particulate matter < 2.5 mu m in aerodynamic diameter). No consistent associations with other measures of atherosclerosis were observed. There was no evidence of effect modification by sociodemographic factors, lipid status, smoking, diabetes, body mass index, or site. Results are compatible with some effect of particulate matter exposures on development of carotid atherosclerosis.