The ability to enhance specific molecular markers of pathology with ultrasound has been previously demonstrated by our group employing a nanoparticle contrast agent [Lanza et al., Invest. Radiol. 35, 227-234 (2000); Ultrasound Med. Biol. 23, 863-870 (1997)]. One of the advantages of this agent is very low echogenicity in the blood pool that allows increased contrast between the blood pool and the bound, site-targeted agent. We measured acoustic backscatter and attenuation coefficient as a function of the contrast agent concentration, ambient pressure, peak acoustic pressure, and as an effect of duty cycle and wave form shape. Measurements were performed while the nanoparticles were suspended in either whole porcine blood or plasma. The nanoparticles were only detectable when insonified within plasma devoid of red blood cells and were shown to exhibit backscatter levels more than 30 dB below the backscatter from whole blood. Attenuation of nanoparticles in whole porcine blood was not measurably different from that of whole blood alone over a range of concentrations up to eight times the maximum in vivo dose. The resulting data provide upper bounds on blood pool attenuation coefficient and backscatter and will be needed to more precisely define levels of molecular contrast enhancement that may be obtained in vivo.