Surface-modified carboxylated nanometre-sized diamond (cND) has been applied for the conjugation of biological molecules such as DNA and protein. In this study, we evaluated the biocompatibility and detection of cNDs and carbon nanotubes on human lung A549 epithelial cells and HFL-1 normal fibroblasts. Treatment with 5 or 100 nm cND particles, 0.1-100 μg ml-1, did not reduce the cell viability and alter the protein expression profile in lung cells; however, carbon nanotubes induced cytotoxicity in these cells. The cNDs particles were accumulated in A549 cells, which were observed by atomic force microscopy and laser scanning confocal microscopy. Both 5 and 100 nm cNDs particles exhibited the green fluorescence and were ingested into cells. Moreover, the fluorescence intensities were increased in cells via a concentration-dependent manner after treatment with 5 and 100 nm cNDs, which can be detected by flow cytometer analysis. The fluorescence intensities of 5 nm cNDs were relative higher than 100 nm cNDs in cells at equal concentration treatment. The observation demonstrated that cND-interacting with cell is detectable by a confocal microscope, flow cytometer and atomic force microscope. These nanoparticles may be useful for further biomedical applications based on the properties of uptake ability, detectability and little cytotoxicity in human cells.