The PM10 (airborne particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter <10 mm) in Beijing has a distinct seasonality, with industrial, domestic and natural sources providing a heterogeneous cocktail of airborne particulate matter (PM). Collections were made during late winter, summer and high wind dust storms to determine composition and probable sources of this PM. The concentration of the PM during winter (174 μg m–3) was approximately four times higher than summer (37 μg m–3) with dust storms raising the concentration further (200 μg m–3). During the winter the PM was dominated by combustion products (66% filter area). During the summer combustion products and loess contributed ~35% to the filter area each, but during elevated wind speeds (>10 mph) loess completely dominated the collections (96% filter area). The majority of the PM10 collected was in the respirable (PM2.5) size range (winter 99.7%, summer 96.6%, dust storms 82.3%). The loess in Beijing comprises quartz, feldspar, calcite, chlorite and mica and is in the coarse silt to sand (20–60 mm) size range. The collections are therefore likely to be made up of finer silt and clay, primarily derived from of the erosion of cultivated land. Using a plasmid assay, the Beijing particulate matter was found to have little or no surface free radical activity.