Nanocellulose is a promising bio-nanomaterial with attractive properties suitable for multiple industrial applications. The increased use of nanocellulose may lead to occupational exposure and negative health outcomes. However, knowledge on its health effects is limited, and while nanocellulose exposure may induce acute inflammatory responses in the lung, the underlying mechanisms are unknown. Alveolar macrophages are key cells in alveolar particle clearance. Their activation and function may be affected by various particles. Here, we investigated the uptake of pristine cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), and their effects on alveolar macrophage polarization and biological function. CNC uptake enhanced the secretion of several cytokines but did not on its own induce a complete macrophage polarization. In presence of macrophage activators, such as LPS/IFNG and IL4/IL13, CNC exposure enhanced the expression of M1 phenotype markers and the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, while decreasing M2 markers. CNC exposure also affected the function of activated alveolar macrophages resulting in a prominent cytokine burst and altered phagocytic activity. In conclusion, CNC exposure may result in dysregulation of macrophage activation and function that are critical in inflammatory responses in the lung.