Polycyclic organic material (POM) was collected by high-volume sampling on filter and on XAD-2 resin from the air of a small industrial town in Finland. Concurrent chemical analysis and the assays for genotoxic activity were performed on the particulate and the vapour phases of ambient air POM and their chemical fractions. Furthermore, correlations between seasonal meteorological parameters and POM concentrations were studied to reveal characteristic POM profiles for various emission sources. The range of total POM concentrations varied from 115 to 380 ng m−3 in late spring and from 17 to 83 ng m−3 in early winter. No direct correlation of ambient POM was seen with the temperature, but rather with the wind direction from various emission sources. Especially the low molecular weight compounds were associated with wind direction from industrial sources. Genotoxic activity, as detected by the Ames Salmonella/microsome test and the SCE assay in CHO cells, was found not only in the paniculate phase samples but also in the vapour phase. The polar fractions of some of the samples showed genotoxic activity, and also direct mutagenicity was observed with both the assay systems; these facts support the significance of compounds other than conventional polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the samples.