Until recently the spectacular developments in nanotechnology have been with little regard to their potential effect on human health and the environment. There are no specific regulations on nanoparticles except existing regulations covering the same material in bulk form. Difficulties abound in devising such regulations, beyond self-imposed regulations by responsible companies, because of the likelihood of different properties exhibited by any one type of nanoparticle, which are tuneable by changing their size, shape and surface characteristics. Green chemistry metrics need to be incorporated into nanotechnologies at the source. This review scopes this issue in the context of potential health effects of nanoparticles, along with medical applications of nanoparticles including imaging, drug delivery, disinfection, and tissue repair. Nanoparticles can enter the human body through the lungs, the intestinal tract, and to a lesser extent the skin, and are likely to be a health issue, although the extent of effects on health are inconclusive. Nanoparticles can be modified to cross the brain blood barrier for medical applications, but this suggests other synthetic nanoparticles may unintentionally cross this barrier.