The toxicity of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) has been shown in many publications. Here we investigated to which degree the silver ion fraction of AgNP suspensions, contribute to the toxicity of AgNPs in A549 lung cells. Cell viability assays revealed that AgNP suspensions were more toxic when the initial silver ion fraction was higher. At 1.5μg/ml total silver, A549 cells exposed to an AgNP suspension containing 39% silver ion fraction showed a cell viability of 92%, whereas cells exposed to an AgNP suspension containing 69% silver ion fraction had a cell viability of 54% as measured by the MTT assay. In addition, at initial silver ion fractions of 5.5% and above, AgNP-free supernatant had the same toxicity as AgNP suspensions. Flow-cytometric analyses of cell cycle and apoptosis confirmed that there is no significant difference between the treatment with AgNP suspension and AgNP supernatant. Only AgNP suspensions with silver ion fraction of 2.6% or less were significantly more toxic than their supernatant as measured by MTT assays. From our data we conclude that at high silver ion fractions (≥5.5%) the AgNPs did not add measurable additional toxicity to the AgNP suspension, whereas at low silver ion fractions (≤2.6%) AgNP suspensions are more toxic than their supernatant. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.