In a rural county, Xuan Wei, China, the lung cancer mortality rate is among China's highest, especially in women. This mortality rate is more associated with indoor air burning of smoky coal, as opposed to smokeless coal or wood, for cooking and heating under unvented conditions. Homes using different fuels from communes with high and low lung cancer mortality rates were sampled for particulate matter (<10 micrometers) and semivolatile organics. The fine particles obtained from homes using smoky coal contained highest concentrations of organic matter (> 70%), including PAH, followed by homes using wood and smokeless coal. The major components present in the smoky coal filter samples were PAH and alkylated PAH. The smokeless coal filter samples exhibited profiles which were similar to the smoky coal samples except that some sulfur compounds were found. The estimated concentration levels of PAH in the smokeless coal samples were about one to two orders of magnitude lower than those of the smoky coal samples. In addition to PAH, aliphatic compounds and fatty acids were the major components found in the wood samples. Selected sample extracts from homes using smoky coal were fractionated into four fractions, and the results showed that the PAH and polar fractions have high mutagenic activity. Chemical characterization of the PAH fraction indicated that concentrations of some alkylated PAH were higher than those of their parent compounds. Chemical characterization of the polar fractions showed that nitrogen heterocyclic compounds are present.