BACKGROUND: There is a strong need for laboratory in vitro test systems for the toxicity of airborne particulate matter and nanoparticles. The measurement of oxidative stress potential offers a promising way forward. OBJECTIVES: A workshop was convened involving leading workers from the field in order to review the available test methods and to generate a Consensus Statement. DISCUSSIONS: Workshop participants summarised their own research activities as well as discussion the relative merits of different test methods. CONCLUSIONS: In vitro test methods have an important role to play in the screening of toxicity in airborne particulate matter and nanoparticles. In vitro cell challenges were preferable to in vitro acellular systems but both have a potential major role to play and offer large cost advantages relative to human or animal inhalation studies and animal in vivo installation experiments. There remains a need to compare tests one with another on standardised samples and also to establish a correlation with the results of population-based epidemiology.