Abstract The field of aquatic toxicology has been expanding rapidly in recent years. The ecotoxicological study of environmental toxicants encompasses three basic frameworks: environmental behavior/transport, bioavailability/bioaccumulation (exposure), and toxicity at different biological levels. Environmental risk assessments are then based on this knowledge to provide sound advice for environmental management and policies. In this article I will highlight the need to further understand the exposure to toxicants and its direct relationship with toxicological responses at different levels. Exposure considerations generally include the route, species, concentration and duration of exposure, among which the importance of the exposure route has been little considered. A typical aquatic toxicological study simply exposes the organisms to toxicants in the water for a certain period of time under different concentrations. This approach may not be environmentally relevant. Future studies should attempt to understand the toxicology under different exposure regimes. Incorporating exposure will allow aquatic toxicology to be placed in a context of environmental relevance and enhance our understanding of the impacts of toxicants on our living environments.