Nanotechnology is the control and manipulation of materials in the size range of 1-100 nm. Due to increasing research into the potential beneficial applications of nanotechnology, there is an urgent need for the study of possible health risks. Several researchers, including those in our laboratory, have demonstrated elevated levels of autophagic vacuoles upon exposure of cells to certain nanomaterials, including carbon- and metal-based nanoparticles. While this apparent increase in autophagic activity may be an appropriate cellular response toward nanomaterial clearance, often the interaction between nanomaterials and the autophagy pathway is disruptive, resulting in severe morphological changes and coincident cell death. Interestingly, epidemiological studies have identified an association between exposure to combustion-derived ambient particles (which are predominantly nanoscale) and neurological conditions with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease-like pathologies. Becuse impaired autophagy may play an important role in the pathogenesis of these and other diseases, it is intriguing to speculate about the plausible involvement of nanoscale particulates in this process. The interaction of nanomaterials with the autophagy pathway, and the potential negative consequences of resulting autophagy dysfunction, should be explored further.