This study evaluates the time-dependent pro-inflammatory response of the model human lung epithelial cells (A549) to industrially relevant zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs). In terms of toxicity, ZnO-NPs are categorised into the group of high toxicity nanomaterials. However information on pro-inflammatory potential of these NPs at sub-toxic concentrations is limited. Understanding how cellular defense mechanisms function in the presence of sub-cytotoxic concentrations of these NPs is vital. Moreover, there is an urgent need for additional in vivo studies addressing pulmonary toxicity due to accidental inhalation of ZnO NPs.