The main objective of this study was to compare the cytotoxic genotoxic and mutagenic activity of a number of chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons, which are widely used as chemical intermediates, solvents, degreasing agents etc. in industry, and to establish the structure-toxicity relationship of the chemicals by using the most adequate determinants in estimating their toxicity. The mutagenicity and cytotoxicity of some of the candidate chemicals, namely 1,2-dichloroethylene, 1,1,2-trichloroethane, 1,3-dichloropropane, 1,2,3-trichloropropane and 1,1,3-trichloropropene were evaluated in an in vitro micronucleus assay. The cytokinesis-block methodology was applied on human lymphocytes in the presence or absence of an external metabolic activation system (S9-mix). In the micronucleus assay, all test substances, except 1,2,3-trichloropropane with and without S9-mix and 1,1,2-trichloroethane without S9-mix in the repeated experiment, exhibited a low but statistically significant mutagenic activity, compared to the concurrent control. However, none of the five chemicals was able to induce a clear and reproducible linear dose-dependent increase in micronucleus frequencies in this assay. Generally, mutagenic activity of the chemicals was found in the absence of severe cytotoxicity and/or cell cycle delay. The DNA breakage capacity and the cytotoxicity of these chemicals were also assessed in the alkaline single cell gel (SCG) electrophoresis test (comet assay) with and without S9-mix in isolated human lymphocytes. All chemical compounds induced DNA breakage, in the presence or absence of the metabolic activation system, at the doses tested. The data showed that the DNA reactivity of the chemicals increased with increasing degree of halogenation. The results of the present work suggested that the comet assay might be a more suitable and sensitive screening method than the micronucleus test for this particular class of compound. However, both assays do detect different endpoints.