Cellular responses to carcinogens are typically studied in transformed cell lines, which do not reflect the physiological status of normal tissues. To address this question, we have characterized the transcriptional program and cellular responses of normal human lung WI-38 fibroblasts upon exposure to the ultimate carcinogen benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE). Exposure to BPDE induces a strong inflammatory response in WI-38 primary fibroblasts. Whole-genome microarray analysis shows induction of several genes related to the production of inflammatory factors, including those that encode interleukins (ILs), growth factors, and enzymes related to prostaglandin synthesis and signaling. This is the first demonstration that a strong inflammatory response is triggered in primary fibroblasts in response to a reactive diol epoxide derived from a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon.