Family 'nearly died' after exposure to toxic coral in fish tank

A family from Shropshire say they feel lucky to be alive after they inhaled in deadly fumes released by coral from their fish tank.

Kate Stevenson, her husband Mark and three of their children became ill last Tuesday (30th July), after Kate cleaned the fishtank in their home in Telford and unknowingly caused a poisonous chemical to be released.

Palytoxin is one of the deadliest poisons known to man and naturally occurs in some corals. If inhaled, it can be fatal, causing respiratory problems, kidney failure and eventually cardiac arrest.

Kate said she thought she was going to die and that her family came down with similar symptoms to hers within minutes.

Emergency services were called and the family were isolated once they arrived at A&E.

Their home was cordoned off and deep-cleaned by experts before they could return.

They've since been released from hospital and are being monitored.

Experts say customers need to be made aware of the toxins corals contain and the conditions that could release them, when making purchase.

The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association says the greatest risk of palytoxin poisoning comes from exposing the slime coating produced by certain corals, known as zoantharians, to air.

They say, wherever possible, marine animals should be handled underwater and fully submerged and should not be lifted out of the aquarium unnecessarily.

Symptoms of palytoxin poisoning include:

  • High fever (more than 38C)

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Sore throat and/or runny nose

  • Muscle pains

  • Rashes on the skin

  • Chest pain

  • Numbness/tingling

  • Irritation of the eye

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Conjunctivitis

Smelling something foul or having a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth could also be signs of poisoning.

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