Airborne particles were investigated in the central part of Riga during October 2000. Mass, black carbon and elemental concentrations of airborne particles were measured on Teflon filters from a dichotomous impactor, which samples fine (<2.5 µm) and coarse (2.5–10 µm) fractions of particles. In order to obtain more detailed information on the size distributions of different elements, a seven-stage Batelle cascade impactor was used, in which quartz plates treated with silicone grease were utilized as backing for the different stages. Total reflection x-ray fluorescence (TXRF) and energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) spectrometry were used for elemental analysis on the quartz plates and Teflon filters. The environmentally mobile part of the fine particle elements in the aerosol was determined by subtraction of x-ray spectra measured before and after sequential leaching of the aerosol filters. The results of the different measurements show that naturally generated street dust and soil particles are dominant in coarse particles, whereas particles generated by human activities are dominant in the size fraction <0.5 µm. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.