The number concentrations and size distributions of aerosol particles >0.3 mm diameter were measured at the summit of Mount Etna and up to 10 km downwind from the degassing vents during July and August 2004. Aerosol number concentrations reached in excess of 9 106 L1 at summit vents, compared to 4–8 104 L1 in background air. Number concentrations of intermediate size particles were higher in emissions from the Northeast crater compared to other summit crater vents, and chemical composition measurements showed that Northeast crater aerosols contained a higher mineral cation content compared to those from Voragine or Bocca Nuova, attributed to Strombolian or gas puffing activity within the vent. Downwind from the summit the airborne plume was located using zenith sky ultraviolet spectroscopy. Simultaneous measurements indicated a coincidence of elevated ground level aerosol concentrations with overhead SO2, demonstrating rapid downward mixing of the plume onto the lower flanks of the volcano under certain meteorological conditions. At downwind sites the ground level particle number concentrations were elevated in all size fractions, notably in the 2.0–7.5 mm size range. These findings are relevant for assessing human health hazard and suggest that aerosol size distribution measurements may aid volcanic risk management.