At 2:30am, ambulances raced to a single family home in Aldinga Beach (Australia) after all the people in the house – two adults, five children, and a dog – suddenly fell ill. The probable cause? Someone had serviced a reef tank in the house the previous day. Live rock was taken out of the aquarium and scrubbed clean, with some of the rock still found on the floor outside the aquarium when the emergency crews arrived.
After consulting with the on-scene HAZMAT team and coral experts, investigators suspect that an aquarium-bourne toxin – likely palytoxin – was inadvertently aerosolized and inhaled by the family, who then developed the most classic early symptom of palytoxin poisoning: shortness of breath. The good news is the family is reportedly in stable condition at the local hospital.
If the imagery of a quarantined house and a small army of professionals in full HAZMAT suits doesn’t motivate you to be more careful around your aquarium, then please read the multiple reports reefkeepers have shared with Advanced Aquarist about the dangers of palytoxin. The world’s second deadliest natural toxin is no joke, people. Even if the chances of you getting sick – or dying – is 0.01%, it’s an unnecessary life-threatening risk. Aquarium martyrdom isn’t a thing.
Always take proper safety precautions when maintaining your aquarium (fresh or saltwater).
- Wear vinyl/latex/nitrile gloves.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after contact with aquarium water or gear.
- Do not work with aquarium water if you have a fresh wound that may be exposed to water.
- Wear glasses or safety goggles around aquarium water.
- Work in a properly ventilated room or outdoors when possible or wear ventilator masks.
- Do not allow young children to touch aquarium water or livestock.
MASNA published a really excellent article by Amy McKenna M.S. and Kevin Erickson M.Sc. about palytoxin that every reefkeeper should read. It really could save your life one day (no exaggeration). Read: http://masna.org/masna-education/palytoxin/