Fish tank coral could be exposing your family to a deadly toxin - here’s why

By Helen Johnson
Friday, 09 August, 2019, 11:20
A warning has been issued after a family was hospitalised when they inhaled a deadly toxin caused by coral (Photo: Shutterstock)

Numerous households throughout the UK have fish tanks - but now a warning has been issued after a family was hospitalised when they inhaled a deadly toxin caused by coral.

Dangerous palytoxin

Katie Stevenson and her family, from Shropshire, were taken to hospital with a deadly palytoxin after cleaning the tank.

This palytoxin is found in corals and is usually transmitted to humans via contaminatedSeafood. However, there have been known cases of aquarium enthusiasts becoming severely ill from the toxin.

Symptoms of palytoxin poisoning

If you breathe in or ingest the palytoxin you quickly fall ill, with symptoms including respiratory distress and abdominal cramps.

This can then quickly progress to kidney failure. Most of those who die of exposure to the toxin suffer from cardiac arrest.

Rushed to hospital

Ms Stevenson, along with her husband and three children, was rushed to hospital by paramedics when the family realised they had become ill shortly after cleaning the tank.

Ms Stevenson experienced a dry cough, and then her husband began developing one. They both had a fever and bad shivers so decided to call 111, who immediately sent an ambulance.

Police and the fire brigade had to cordon off their home in Telford, Shropshire, with the mother explaining that if they had gone to sleep instead of calling 111 when the symptoms began, they would have died.

This case of palytoxin poisoning is believed to be one of only a few recorded cases of within the UK.

The two adults, who were first hit by the toxins, were in hospital for about a week, and the three children, who had been asleep at the time, were discharged the day after.

Ms Stevenson said, "We had gone on holiday and our fish had died, so we decided to get rid of the tank. We completely emptied the tank and started scrubbing it. When you scrub it, it lets off toxins. The house had to be completely cordoned off by the police and fire brigade."

Call for more awareness over dangers of toxins

The family has now called for more to be done in order to make people aware of the dangers of having common coral in their homes.

"We bought the coral and didn't have a clue - they don't give you any danger leaflets or anything like that," Ms Stevenson said.

"You should be told about the toxins so you can know what you're touching and how to clean it.”

This article was originally published on our sister site, Yorkshire Evening Post.