Abstract This paper presents the genotoxicity experiments with the ground water collected from an area under the influence of textile dyeing and bleaching industries in Tirupur, Tamilnadu, India. The alkaline single cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) assay was performed in vitro with human peripheral blood lymphocytes. The cells were exposed to two doses of non-volatile organic agents extracted from ground water samples. Ground water samples were collected from 12 locations distributed in and around Tirupur and extracts were taken at different pHs (without pH adjustment and acidic pH 2.0). The persistence of the DNA damage after exposure to the organic extracts was also studied. All the samples were found to contain substances capable of inducing DNA damage in human lymphocytes. Extracts from acidified waters (pH=2.0) were found to induce more DNA damage than extracts from without pH adjustment (natural pH). The DNA damage was not fully repaired after incubation for 2 h at 37 °C. The chemical characterization of the sub-fractions revealed the existence of aromatic amines in the extracts, which may be responsible for the DNA damaging activity of the water samples. The results of this investigation demonstrate the application of the comet assay in environmental monitoring studies.