After passage through biological barriers, nanomaterials inevitably end up in contact with the vascular endothelium and can induce cardiovascular damage. In this study the toxicity and sub-lethal effects of six types of nanoparticle, including four of industrial and biomedical importance, on human endothelial cells were investigated using different in vitro assays. The results show that all the particles investigated induce some level of damage to the cells and that silver particles were most toxic, followed by titanium dioxide. Furthermore, endothelial cells were shown to be more susceptible when exposed to silver nanoparticles under flow conditions in a bioreactor. The study underlines that although simple in vitro tests are useful to screen compounds and to identify the type of effect induced on cells, they may not be sufficient to define safe exposure limits. Therefore, once initial toxicity screening has been conducted on nanomaterials, it is necessary to develop more physiologically relevant in vitro models to better understand how nanomaterials can impact on human health.