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 Caution When Handling Corals: Toxins

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Join date : 2011-01-15
Posts : 2530

PostSubject: Caution When Handling Corals: Toxins   Wed May 18, 2011 2:21 pm

Many LFS and reefers take for granted just how dangerous some corals can be. When handling corals, reefers need to take precautions to protect the corals as well as themselves. It is important to know what types of corals you own and how to handle them appropriately.

Palythoas and Zoanthids

Palythoas (often referred to as Palys) and Zoanthids (often called Zoas or Zoos) are two types of corals that reefers need to handle with extra caution. Almost all Palythoas and some species of Zoanthids contain and can secrete a neurotoxin known as palytoxin. Palytoxins can KILL humans. In fact, native Hawaiians used to make deadly poison arrows by rubbing the spear tips of their arrows in Palythoa colonies found along the shore. Palys and Zoas are often labeled as "beginner" corals because they are hardier and more forgiving then other types of corals, but (even if the LFS forgets to mention this to you) they can be deadly. In fact, there is NO antitoxin that has been invented. When handling corals such as these, extra precautions to protect yourself must be taken. Additionally, extra precautions must be taken to protect others like pets and children that may be nearby.

When handling such corals it is advised that you...

1. Wear gloves - If you have any cuts or open wounds on your hand, or acquire any when handling the coral, this means trouble.

2. Wear goggles or some sort of protective eye covering - Palys and Zoas can squirt palytoxins up to several feet.

3. Wear a mask - Inhaling palytoxins can be just as deadly.

4. Wash your hands and any tools that used (i.e. fragging tools) thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling the corals.

Paly/Zoa Horror Stories:

So, I bought a new colony of zoas. I got it home and was putting it in my tank. As I did, I inadvertantly perssed my thumb against one of the polyps, breaking it. A spray of liquid came out of it, but I never really thought much of it. On my way to wash my hands after my lip tickled and I rubbed it. Well to summarize a VERY long couple of days, my tongue is STILL green, Everything tastes like metal and I have FINALLY stopped vomiting. Turns out, (as you all may know, but I did not) zoas have quite a toxic poison in them, I thought that they were on the mild side toxicity wise. Doctors were stumped for a few hours as all my bloodwork came back fine. I am not even sure WHY I mentioned the new coral to them, I certainly didn't truly think that was the cause. After the docs did some quick research (I guess it isn't a condition they commonly treat) they told me that it is a toxin that can actually be fatal in humans-although it is rare-AND there is no antitoxin. I am currently on steroids to help keep my airways open, and they say it could be a couple weeks before the tightness in my chest goes, but, I am apparently lucky. I looked online myself today and discovered a couple of stories of people trying to reduce a pesty colony by soaking an overpopulated rock in boiling water. Apparently this vapourizes the toxin and also is quite risky. I tell you all of this incase there is anybody, who like me, doesn't realize the potential threat. Thanks for reading.

- Michelle (Livingreefs.com)

i guy in our rc club was fragging zoos and one squirted him in the eye and put him in intensive care for a week so everyone heres another reminder with zoos and palythoa's be careful, i do not frag i let them grow on to other rocks than trade them. if your gonna cut frags use gloves and face shield for real.

- d.french (Livingreefs.com)

I fragged my purple death last night and decided to cut the rock it was on with a dremal after I cut the palys with a scalpal, just figured it would be more accurate. Anyways a little of the paly toxin must of shot in my eyes, as an hour later eye had severe burning in my eyes. Also anything I eat with salt on it tastes like metal, I read it has something to do with the composition of the poison. I have read one other case online with the same results. So today they are still very very red and soar, they are also constantly filling with mucus like when you have pink eye. Not fun just wanted to share my experience. Poison control told me to flush eyes for 15 min with warm water and then cover for 10 min with cool cloth. Which I did but nothing seems to help. I will deffinately be more cautious in handling these next time.

- Pitbullguy (Michiganreefers.com)

.....I inhaled it and it has really taken it's toll. I'm telling this story because I don't want anybody to have to go through what I did.....and still am. Trust me, it's horrible. First some background. I have a 210g mixed reef and I had a few rocks that were becoming infested with a plain looking green zoanthid that had stripes on the polyp. I had read somewhere on-line (I'm not sure where) that boiling water would get rid of them. Well, I know how to boil water so I figure it would be a piece of cake. Now here is where the story starts getting interesting. I boiled some water and got a 5 gallon bucket. I pulled out 1 rock and held it over the bucket. I poured the boiling water over the polyps and the steam came up and I breathed it in. The first thing I thought was "damn that smells nasty". I took the rock and put it in my hospital tank and decided not to do any more because the wife wouldn't like the smell. So I decided to go outside and work on the kids playhouse. Well, about 20 minutes after I inhaled the steam my nose started running really bad and I started coughing. "Well, it's going to be a hell of an allergy season" I thought to myself. After all I was working outside. So I decided to suck it up and take some benedryl. Well about 4 hours later I started to realize it wasn't just allergies. I started having a hard time breathing and noticed that I wasn't feeling just right. It was then that I remembered a story about someone who had a dog that had eaten zoos and died from it. So I went on to the internet and couldn't believe what I found. Apparently zoanthids contain one of the deadliest naturally occurring toxins called palytoxin. In all of my research I found stories of warriors of old smearing their arrow heads and spear heads in zoos because such a small amount of the palytoxin can be fatal to humans. But everything I saw had to do with the toxin getting into the bloodstream. Then I started thinking and changed my search to "ingested palytoxin". Well, it turns out that the zoanthids release the palytoxin when they are distressed. It also turns out that the palytoxin can be aerosolized......which when mixed with steam and breathed in........not such a good thing. I then came across this article by Julian Sprung that gives a little detail on someone else who had inhaled the toxin: http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issu...003/invert.htm. Well after reading that (and my wife reading it over my shoulder) it was off to the ER we went. Well on the way I started having more trouble breathing and was going into these coughing fits that would make a grown man cry.......and did. I started getting chest pains (by the way......if you want to get admitted to the ER quickly just tell them you have chest pains). So after the EKG and we found out my heart was normal we waited 2 hours for a room. Once in the room they put my on a nebulizer, gave me a shot of steroids (prednisone) and a little morphine for the pain. They did a blood workup (which came back normal) and took chest X-rays (which came back normal) and even tested me for the flu. After 15 hours in the ER they basically told me that they didn't know what to do. The research they did didn't turn up much more than I had printed off for them and palytoxin doesn't have a antedote. So they gave me a two week steroid treatment, some albuterol (inhaler), and a cough suppresant with codiene in it and sent me home. Now, fast forward 2-1/2 weeks. I just got in to see a Pulmonary specialist and did not like the news. Apparently the toxin has given me a case of bad asthma. Breathing in the palytoxin has inflammed my bronchial tubes. Here is what really sucks.......they have no idea how long this is going to last. They just put me on one months worth of inhalable steroids (isn't inhaling what got me in trouble in the first place??) and told me to see how it goes for the next month. They can't tell me when or if it's going to go away or if their are going to be any long term effects. Meanwhile, every time I take a breath I have to try not to cough, I get migraine like headaches from all of the coughing and I have pulled every muscle in my chest and abdomen from coughing. You hear stories and you think, "wow, that's aweful.......but that won't happen to me". Well let me tell you.......I thought the same thing and now I'm in more pain than I care to imagine. BOTTOM LINE - BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU HANDLE ZOOS.......THEY ARE VERY DANGEROUS AND IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU.

- Steveoutlaw (Reefcentral.com)

Zoanthids are they toxic? I have to say YES! Yesterday I was getting ready for the Ohio frag swap. I was working over a rubbermade tub and my dog was sitting next to me as she always did. I got up to get some more gumbands to close the bags and when I returned she had her head in the tub. I thought nothing about it. Dogs always stick their heads in things. 12:30 I went to the frag swap and was having a really good time. An I got a call on my cell phone. My wife called to tell me that the dog was sick. 2:00 I hung around for a bit after I talked to my wife. Dogs get sick all of the time (right)? She called again told me to come home. 3:00 I came home and the dog greeted me at the door but she was very lethargic. My wife told me to take the dog to the vet. 4:30 I took her to the vet. At this point I had to carry her from my truck. I talked to the vet and I had no idea of what could be the problem. He ran some tests on her blood and from the tests he said that it looked like she had ingested some sort of toxin. A bell went off in my head!! She had her head in my tub. I got on my cell and had a friend do some searches about Zoanthids. We found Zoanthids carry one of the most powerful toxins in the world. The toxin is called Palytoxin. I read the symptoms and wow a direct match. Did a search for a cure only to find out that there is no antitoxin. My dog passed away at 12:15am. I normaly would not post any thing like this or make a post this long but I wanted everyone to know that Zoanthids are very toxic. Watch when your children and pets around your tanks.

- Kevin_Kramer (Reefcentral.com)

Tommy (Tcat3rd) Almost died Wednesday evening after being exposed to the deadly Palytoxin from zoanthids left over night in a bucket. The zoo's were have dead from leaving them over night in a bucket so he decided to clean the rocks off in his utility tub with hot water and scrubbing them. He was full aware of the danger of the toxin, he used eye protection and full length gloves to clean the rocks. What he didn't protect was his lungs, the hot water and steam from the water made the toxin airborne. After 20 minutes of cleaning the rocks he went up stairs, feeling sick to his stomach. after another half hour passed he was ready to head to the emergency room but before he left he printed out articles on the toxin to take with him. In the waiting room he became almost paralyzed and started to cough up blood, his lungs were filling up with blood as well. The Dr's treated him with everything the could think of and were getting results, they called in the priest for last rights that evening and didn't think he'd make it through the night. Thursday morning they continued massive treat of antibiotics and steroids with little improvement. Today he's on his way back from his death bed and will be in the hospital for days to run tests and monitor his progress. We wanted me to post up to let everyone know and to remind them the dangers of our tanks. Thoughts and prayers go out to Tommy and his family, which also got sick from the toxin just not as bad as Tommy did being in closer range to the steam.

- Erik (Reeftools.com)

~Samantha snorkel

Founder and Former President of the Aquarist Club at USF

100 Gallon Mixed Reef Aquarium

47 Gallon Macroalgae DT
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