Mineral dust is an important aerosol species in the Earth's atmosphere and has a major source within North Africa, of which the Sahara forms the major part. Aerosol Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (ATOFMS) is first used to determine the mixing state of dust particles collected from the land surface in the Saharan region, showing low abundance of species such as nitrate and sulphate internally mixed with the dust mineral matrix. These data are then compared with the ATOFMS single particle mass spectra of Saharan dust particles detected in the marine atmosphere in the vicinity of the Cape Verde islands, which are further compared with those from particles with longer atmospheric residence sampled at a coastal station at Mace Head, Ireland. Saharan dust particles collected near the Cape Verde Islands showed increased internally mixed nitrate but no sulphate, whilst Saharan dust particles collected on the coast of Ireland showed a very high degree of internally mixed secondary species including nitrate, sulphate and methanesulphonate. This uptake of secondary species will change the pH and hygroscopic properties of the aerosol dust and thus can influence the budgets of other reactive gases, as well as influencing the radiative properties of the particles and the availability of metals for dissolution. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.