Increasing numbers of epidemiologic studies associate air pollution exposure in children with decreased lung function development. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of exposure to combustion-generated fine [230 and 212 nm number mean aerodynamic particle diameter (NMAD)] to ultrafine (73 nm NMAD) particles differing in elemental (EC) and organic (OC) carbon content on postnatal airway development in rats. Neonatal Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed from postnatal day 7 through 25, and lung function and airway architecture were evaluated 81 days of age. In a separate group of rats, cell proliferation was examined after a single particle exposure at 7 days of age. Early life exposure to 73 nm high OC/EC particles altered distal airway architecture and resulted in subtle changes in lung mechanics. Early life exposure to 212 nm high OC/EC particles did not alter lung architecture but did alter lung mechanics in a manner suggestive of central airway changes. In contrast, early life exposure to 230 nm low OC/EC particles did not alter lung architecture or mechanics. A single 6-h exposure to 73 nm high OC/EC particle decreased airway cell proliferation, whereas 212 nm high OC/EC particles increased it and 230 nm low OC/EC particles did not. The early life exposure to ultrafine, high OC/EC particles results in persistent alterations in distal airway architecture that is characterized by an initial decrease in airway cell proliferation. © 2010 the American Physiological Society.