Do You Have One of The Most Toxic Substances in Your Salt Water Tank? Probably

My fiance and I knew that the coral known as zoanthid or more commonly known as Zoas, are poisonous but we didn’t realize just how bad it could be. On Monday, January 22nd, 2018, we found out accidentally.  It’s common for owners of saltwater tanks or ‘reefers” to boil live rock when it gets algae on it. Algae is bad for the tank and thus must be gotten rid of.  My fiance removed a rock covered in hair algae and put it on the stove in a pot to boil off the unwanted substance.  What he did not notice was the 4 small heads of zoanthids growing amongst the algae.  3 hours we were both in the ER wondering if we were going to die from inhaling palytoxins.download (4).jpg

Good grief, you are thinking. How could this happen?  Case studies show this is a common occurrence as well as the accidental ingestion or injection of this poison.  Luckily, we knew what had happened but there is no known antidote.  The only thing the doctors can do is treat the symptoms and hope for the best.  Symptoms of palytoxin poisoning include the following:  palytoxin symptoms. 

a bitter/metallic taste, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mild to acute lethargy, paresthesia, bradycardia, renal failure, impairment of sensation, muscle spasms, tremor myalgia, cyanosis, and respiratory distress. In the fatal cases of palytoxin poisoning, the poisoning mostly results in death due to myocardial injury

My fiance was not exposed like I was as I was sitting on the other side of the sink in the living room and he went to the back bedroom to use his computer. We were lucky, many are not.  download (5).jpg

The biggest question I want to raise in regards to this horrible accident is why doesn’t the federal government regulate the sale of this poison?  Why are there no warnings when you purchase zoanthids?  Anything else that is a known toxin must be marked with a warning before purchase.  Because it is unusual for someone to expose themselves to palytoxin, there are few case studies as my doctor admitted. We went to Mayo Clinic which is one of the best hospitals in the world and you could still see the fear in the doctors’ eyes as they attempted to treat us.

I have severe lung damage from exposure which should improve with time and am lucky to be alive today.  My ICU doctor informed me that my lungs looked like I had been in a high impact car crash and told me over and over again that he thought the prognosis was good (all, while the doubt in his mind, showed on his face).   After treatments of steroids, oxygen, diuretics, 4 breathing treatments a day, threats of a breathing tube, oxycodone, Tylenol, and Benadryl I was released after 5 days in the ICU. I am currently healing at home.

Please, before you buy any type of coral or fish for your tank, educate yourself on what you are buying and how to handle it safely.

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