There are certain concerns regarding the safety for the environment and human health from the use of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) which leads to unintended exposures, as opposed to the use of ENPs for medical purposes. This review focuses on the unintended human exposure of ENPs. In particular, possible effects in the brain are discussed and an attempt to assess risks is performed.Animal experiments have shown that investigated ENPs (metallic nanoparticles, quantum dots, carbon nanotubes) can translocate to the brain from different entry points (skin, blood, respiratory pathways). After inhalation or instillation into parts of the respiratory tract a very small fraction of the inhaled or instilled ENPs reaches the blood and subsequently secondary organs, including the CNS, at a low translocation rate. Experimental in vivo and in vitro studies have shown that several types of ENPs can have various biological effects in the nervous system. Some of these effects could also imply that ENPs can cause hazards, both acutely and in the long term. The relevance of these data for risk assessment is far from clear. There are at present very few data on exposure of the general public to either acute high dose exposure or on chronic exposure to low levels of air-borne ENPs. It is furthermore unlikely that acute high dose exposures would occur. The risk from such exposures for damaging CNS effects is thus probably very low, irrespective of any biological hazard associated with ENPs.The situation is more complicated regarding chronic exposures, at low doses. The long term accumulation of ENPs can not be excluded. However, we do not have exposure data for the general public regarding ENPs. Although translocation to the brain via respiratory organs and the circulation appears to be very low, there remains a possibility that chronic exposures, and/or biopersistent ENPs, can influence processes within the brain that are triggering or aggravating pathological processes.In general, the present state of knowledge is unsatisfactory for a proper risk assessment in this area. Crucial deficits include lack of exposure data, the absence of a proper dose concept, and that studies often fail in adequate description of the investigated ENPs.