Conventional toxicity testing has relied heavily on fixed duration continuous exposure conditions. These conditions have little relevance to the exposure conditions of many environmental pollutants, particularly the highly variable and often brief exposure regimes of episodic pollution events. This research was designed to assess the effects of brief exposures using a postexposure observation period. The common freshwater organisms Ceriodaphnia dubia, Hyalella azteca, and Pimephales promelas were exposed to a range of cadmium (Cd), zinc (Zn), and/or phenol concentrations for durations ranging from 15 to 240 min. Immobility was measured for up to 7 d after the exposure period. Results showed that organisms exposed to Cd and Zn exhibited delayed effects that resulted in increasing immobility for up to 172 h after the exposure period. Ceriodaphnia dubia, H. azteca, and P. promelas exposed to Cd for as short as 30 min exhibited 100, 95, and 85% immobility, respectively, during postexposure observation. Ceriodaphnia dubia and H. azteca exposed to Zn for as short as 30 min exhibited 100 and 30% immobility, respectively, during postexposure observation. Ceriodaphnia dubia exposed to phenol exhibited recovery of mobility after the exposure period. The presence of delayed effects or organism recovery suggests that toxicity tests used to monitor brief exposures should use environmentally relevant exposure durations and postexposure observations.