A methodology for workplace air monitoring of aromatic and aliphatic, mono- and polyisocyanates by derivatisation with di-n-butylamine (DBA) is presented. Air sampling was performed using midget impinger flasks containing 10 ml of 0.01 mol l−1 DBA in toluene and a glass-fibre filter in series after the impinger flask, thereby providing the possibility of collecting and derivatising isocyanates in both the gas and particle phases. Quantification was made by LC-MS, monitoring the molecular ions [MH]+. Air samples taken with this method in car repair shops showed that many different isocyanates are formed during thermal decomposition of polyurethane (PUR) coatings. In addition to isocyanates such as hexamethylene (HDI), isophorone (IPDI), toluene (TDI) and methylenediphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), monoisocyanates such as methyl (MIC), ethyl (EIC), propyl (PIC), butyl (BIC) and phenyl isocyanate (PhI) were found. In many air samples the aliphatic monoisocyanates dominated. During cutting and welding operations, the highest levels of isocyanates were observed. In a single air sample from a welding operation in a car repair shop, the highest concentrations found were: MIC, 290; EIC, 60; PIC, 20; BIC, 9; PhI, 27; HDI, 105; IPDI, 39; MDI, 4; and 2,4-TDI and 2,6-TDI 140 µg m−3. Monitoring the particle size distribution and concentration during grinding, welding and cutting operations showed that ultrafine particles (<0.1 µm) were formed at high concentrations. Isocyanates with low volatility were mainly found in the particle phase, but isocyanates with a relatively high volatility such as TDI, were found in both the particle and gas phases.