Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are well known for their excellent antibacterial ability and superior physical properties, and are widely used in a growing number of applications ranging from home disinfectants and medical devices to water purificants. However, with the accelerating production and introduction of AgNPs into commercial products, there is likelihood of release into the environment, which raises health and environmental concerns. This article provides a critical review of the state-of-knowledge about AgNPs, involving the history, analysis, source, fate and transport, and potential risks of AgNPs. Although great efforts have been made in each of these aspects, there are still many questions to be answered to reach a comprehensive understanding of the positive and negative effects of AgNPs. In order to fully investigate the fate and transport of AgNPs in the environment, appropriate methods for the preconcentration, separation and speciation of AgNPs should be developed, and analytical tools for the characterization and detection of AgNPs in complicated environmental samples are also urgently needed. To elucidate the environmental transformation of AgNPs, the behavior of AgNPs should be thoroughly monitored in complex environmental relevant conditions. Furthermore, additional in vivo toxicity studies should be carried out to understand the exact toxicity mechanism of AgNPs, and to predict the health effects to humans.