Background. Research to date on health effects associated with incineration has found limited evidence of health risks, but many previous studies have been constrained by poor exposure assessment. This paper provides a comparative assessment of atmospheric dispersion modelling and distance from source (a commonly used proxy for exposure) as exposure assessment methods for pollutants released from incinerators. Methods. Distance from source and the atmospheric dispersion model ADMS-Urban were used to characterise ambient exposures to particulates from two municipal solid waste incinerators (MSWIs) in the UK. Additionally an exploration of the sensitivity of the dispersion model simulations to input parameters was performed. Results. The model output indicated extremely low ground level concentrations of PM10, with maximum concentrations of <0.01 g/m3. Proximity and modelled PM10 concentrations for both MSWIs at postcode level were highly correlated when using continuous measures (Spearman correlation coefficients 0.7) but showed poor agreement for categorical measures (deciles or quintiles, Cohen's kappa coefficients ≤ 0.5). Conclusion. To provide the most appropriate estimate of ambient exposure from MSWIs, it is essential that incinerator characteristics, magnitude of emissions, and surrounding meteorological and topographical conditions are considered. Reducing exposure misclassification is particularly important in environmental epidemiology to aid detection of low-level risks.