The effects of air pollution on health have been intensively studied in recent years. Acute exposure to environmental pollutants such as particulate and gaseous matters (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and ozone) was associated with an increased rate of events and mortality because of cardiovascular diseases. These effects were investigated in short-term studies, which related day-to-day variations in air pollution to disease, and in long-term studies, which have followed cohorts of exposed individuals over time. The evidence from the literature on the short-term cardiovascular effects of air pollutants is discussed from clinical and mechanistic points of view.