4-Chloro-1,2-phenylenediamine (4-Cl-o-PD) is a halogenated aromatic diamine that was used as a precursor for manufacturing permanent hair dyes. Despite its well-documented mutagenic and carcinogenic effects in a number of in vitro and in vivo models, its cytotoxicity and mode of action have not received similar attention. Here, we investigated the effect of 4-Cl-o-PD on Mardin–Darby canine kidney cells. It induced apoptosis and the evidence suggests its initiation by reactive oxygen species (ROS). The results of various assays used show a dose-dependent (i) decrease in cell viability, (ii) increase in cells at sub-G1 phase and the G0/G1 phase arrested in cell cycle, (iii) increase in intracellular ROS accompanied by depletion of glutathione, and (iv) that apoptotic cell death probably involves activation of both intrinsic and extrinsic pathways. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 29: 655–664, 2014.