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Particulate matter (PM) air pollution is associated with the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, the biological mechanism underlying the associations remains unclear. Atherosclerosis, the underlying pathology of cardiovascular disease, is a chronic inflammatory process. We therefore investigated the association of long-term exposure to fine PM (PM2.5) with C-reactive protein (CRP), a sensitive marker of systemic inflammation, in a large Taiwanese population.Participants were from a large cohort who participated in a standard medical examination programme with measurements of high-sensitivity CRP between 2007 and 2014. We used a spatiotemporal model to estimate 2-year average PM2.5 exposure at each participant's address, based on satellite-derived aerosol optical depth data. General regression models were used for baseline data analysis and mixed-effects linear regression models were used for repeated data analysis to investigate the associations between PM2.5 exposure and CRP, adjusting for a wide range of potential confounders.In this population of 30 034 participants with 39 096 measurements, every 5 μg/m3 PM2.5 increment was associated with a 1.31% increase in CRP [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.00%, 1.63%) after adjusting for confounders. For those participants with repeated CRP measurements, no significant changes were observed between the first and last measurements (0.88 mg/l vs 0.89 mg/l, P = 0.337). The PM2.5 concentrations remained stable over time between 2007 and 2014.Long-term exposure to PM2.5 is associated with increased level of systemic inflammation, supporting the biological link between PM2.5 air pollution and deteriorating cardiovascular health. Air pollution reduction should be an important strategy to prevent cardiovascular disease.