The present study was undertaken to determine if chlorinated and brominated acetonitriles formed during the chlorination of drinking water possess mutagenic and/or carcinogenic properties. Chloroacetonitrile (CAN), dichloroacetonitrile (DCAN), trichloroacetonitrile (TCAN), bromochloroacetonitrile (BCAN), and dibromoacetonitrile (DBAN) were tested for their ability (1) to produce point mutations in the Salmonella/microsome assay, (2) to induce sister chromatid exchanges (SCE) in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells in vitro, (3) to produce micronuclei in polychromatic erythrocytes in CD-1 mice, and (4) to act as tumor initiators in the skin of Sencar mice. DCAN and BCAN were found to be direct acting mutagens in Salmonella. All five haloacetonitriles induced SCEs in CHO cells in vitro. This activity paralleled the extent of chlorine substitution and was further enhanced in the dihaloacetonitrile series if bromine was substituted for chlorine. None of the haloacetonitriles showed evidence of activity in the mouse micronucleus assay.