© 2017 Given increasing use of copper-based nanomaterials, particularly in applications with direct release, it is imperative to understand their human and ecological risks. A comprehensive and systematic approach was used to determine toxicity and fate of several Cu nanoparticles (Cu NPs). When used as pesticides in agriculture, Cu NPs effectively control pests. However, even at low (5–20 mg Cu/plant) doses, there are metabolic effects due to the accumulation of Cu and generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Embedded in antifouling paints, Cu NPs are released as dissolved Cu+ 2 and in nano- and micron-scale particles. Once released, Cu NPs can rapidly (hours to weeks) oxidize, dissolve, and form CuS and other insoluble Cu compounds, depending on water chemistry (e.g. salinity, alkalinity, organic matter content, presence of sulfide and other complexing ions). More than 95% of Cu released into the environment will enter soil and aquatic sediments, where it may accumulate to potentially toxic levels (> 50–500 μg/L). Toxicity of Cu compounds was generally ranked by high throughput assays as: Cu+ 2 > nano Cu(0) > nano Cu(OH)2 > nano CuO > micron-scale Cu compounds. In addition to ROS generation, Cu NPs can damage DNA plasmids and affect embryo hatching enzymes. Toxic effects are observed at much lower concentrations for aquatic organisms, particularly freshwater daphnids and marine amphipods, than for terrestrial organisms. This knowledge will serve to predict environmental risks, assess impacts, and develop approaches to mitigate harm while promoting beneficial uses of Cu NPs.