Abstract Background Epidemiological studies have reported increased risks of cardiopulmonary-related hospitalization and death in association with exposure to elevated levels of particulate matter (PM) across a wide range of urban areas. In response to these findings, researchers have conducted animal inhalation exposures aimed at reproducing the observed toxicologic effects. However, it is technically difficult to quantitate the actual amount of PM delivered to the lung in such studies, and dose is frequently estimated using default respiration parameters. Consequently, the interpretation of PM-induced effects in rodents exposed via whole-body inhalation is often compromised by the inability to determine deposited dose. To address this problem, we have developed an exposure system that merges the generation of dry, aerosolized particles with whole-body plethysmography (WBP), thus permitting inhalation exposures in the unrestrained rat while simultaneously obtaining data on pulmonary function. Results This system was validated using an oil combustion-derived particle (HP12) at three nominal concentrations (3, 12, and 13 mg/m3) for four consecutive exposure days (6 hr/day); a single 6-hour exposure to 13 mg/m3 of HP12 was also conducted. These results demonstrated that the system was both reliable and consistent over these exposure protocols, achieving average concentrations that were within 10% of the targeted concentration. In-line filters located on the exhaust outlets of individual WBP chambers showed relative agreement in HP12 mass for each day and were not statistically different when compared to one another (p = 0.16). Temperatures and relative humidities were also similar between chambers during PM and air exposures. Finally, detailed composition analyses of both HP12 filter and bulk samples showed that grinding and aerosolization did not change particle chemistry. Conclusion The results of this study demonstrate that it is possible to expose rodents to resuspended, dry PM via whole-body inhalation while these animals are maintained in WBP chambers. This new methodology should significantly improve the ability to assess dosimetry under minimally stressful exposure conditions.