Engineered nanoparticles are an important tool for future nanomedicines to deliver and target drugs or bring imaging agents to the targets where they are required. Since the original application of liposomes in the 1970s, a wealth of carrier and imaging systems has been developed, including magnetoliposomes, dendrimers, fullerenes and polymer carriers. However, to make use of this potential, toxicological issues must be addressed, in particular because of findings on combustion-derived nanoparticles in environmentally exposed populations, which show effects in those with respiratory or cardiovascular diseases. These effects are mediated by oxidative stress, lung and systemic inflammation and different mechanisms of internalization and translocation. Many effects found with combustion-derived nanoparticles have now tested positive with engineered nanoparticles, such as single-wall nanotubes. This article aims to identify common concepts in the action of nanoparticles in order to enable future cross-talk and mutual use of concepts.