A substantial proportion of the global burden of disease is directly or indirectly attributable to exposure to air pollution. Exposures occurring during the periods of organogenesis and rapid lung growth during fetal development and early post-natal life are especially damaging. In this State of the Art review, we discuss air toxicants impacting on children's respiratory health, routes of exposure with an emphasis on unique pathways relevant to young children, methods of exposure assessment and their limitations and the adverse health consequences of exposures. Finally, we point out gaps in knowledge and research needs in this area. A greater understanding of the adverse health consequences of exposure to air pollution in early life is required to encourage policy makers to reduce such exposures and improve human health.