While aquariums are beautiful in a home and give people a soothing and relaxed feeling, what lurks in fish tanks can be deadly if you’re not careful. In this case, a British man was cleaning his aquarium when he accidentally caused deadly toxins to be released into the air, leading to the entire family going to the hospital.
Saltwater aquariums that contain soft corals could be contaminated with palytoxin – a deadly toxin. Whoever is responsible for the tank cleaning should know exactly how to handle the soft corals.
After cleaning the tank, he, his family, and their two dogs experienced flu-like symptoms.
Since the man in this story, Chris Matthews, was aware of the fact that certain aquarium corals can be toxic, he suspected the sudden ‘illness’ felt by the family could be just a result of those corals. So, he called for help.
That call for help sent 50 EMERGENCY PERSONNEL AND A HAZARDOUS MATERIALS TEAM to his home.
Matthews and his entire family, as well as four firefighters were hospitalized as a result of the dangerous toxins released from the corals on March 26. The family dogs were treated by a vet.
How Did the Deadly Aquarium Coral Toxins Release into the Air?
Matthews cleaned off a rock from the aquarium in the air. That was his mistake! What he should have done was to clean it UNDER WATER!
This palytoxin is found in common corals that go in saltwater aquariums around the world. The corals grow on rocks, firmly attaching themselves to the point where they must be scraped off the surface. They are typically green-brown and grow and spread quickly.
It is crucial that all the cleaning is done under water. Pouring boiling water on the rock will cause aerosolization of palytoxin and could lead to serious health implications.
Handling soft corals like these out of the water is dangerous. As soon as it is out of the water, it will close up and then may squirt out a liquid – in your eyes if you’re observing it up close. It is therefore recommended to wear eye protection.
Palythoa and Zoanthus coral species are the most likely to have palytoxin. It’s likely that Matthews had zoanthids.