World's 2nd deadliest poison, in an aquarium store near you!

Discussion in 'Zoa Discussion (CLUB ZOA)' started by revhtree, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award Article Contributor Partner Member

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    This is an old article. I found it while researching something for a post. Just wanted to bring it back to life and discuss it!

    World’s 2nd deadliest poison, in an aquarium store near you!

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    In 2007, a man from Woodbridge, Virginia was rushed into hospital after inhaling an aerosolised version of one of the deadliest poisons on the planet. He was not the victim of a terrorist attack. He wasn’t working in a biohazard laboratory. He was trying to clean out his fish tank.

    The man, who posts on the Reef Central Forums as Steveoutlaw, was trying to get rid of a colony of zoanthids – a relative of corals and sea anemones – that was infesting his aquarium rocks. He had heard that boiling water would do the trick. When he tried it, he accidentally inhaled some of the steam.

    Twenty minutes later, his nose was running and he had a cough. Four hours later, his breathing was laboured and he was headed to the emergency room. By the time he arrived, he was suffering from severe coughing fits and chest pains. He was stabilised, but he developed asthma and a persistent cough, and had to use steroids and an inhaler for at least two months.

    The reason for his sudden illness was palytoxin, a speciality of zoanthids, and the second deadliest poison in the natural world. One gram of the stuff will kill more than a hundred million mice. This poison, liberated by the boiling water, had risen into Steveoutlaw’s airways in a cloud of steam.

    Palytoxin is shrouded in legend. Hawaiian islanders tell of a cursed village in Maui, whose members defied a shark god that had been eating their fellow villagers. They dismembered and burned the god, before scattering his ashes in a tide pool near the town of Hana. Shortly after, a mysterious type of seaweed started growing in the pool. It became known as “limu-make-o-Hana†(deadly seaweed of Hana). If smeared on a spear’s point, it could instantly kill its victims.

    The shark god may have been an elaborate fiction, but in 1961, Philip Helfrich and John Shupe actually found the legendary pool. Within it, they discovered a new species of zoanthid called Palythoa toxica. The limu-make-o-Hana was real, but it wasn’t seaweed – it was a type of colonial anemone. In 1971, Richard Moore and Paul Scheuer isolated the chemical responsible for the zoanthid’s lethal powers – palytoxin. Now, Jonathan Deeds from the US Food and Drug Administration has found that the poison is readily available in aquarium stores.

    Deeds was investigating a case of palytoxin poisoning when he heard about Steveoutlaw’s unfortunate incident. He visited the man, collected a sample of the offending zoanthid, and found that it was indeed heavy with palytoxin. It wasn’t hard to get his hands on more. Deeds bought 15 more colonies from three aquarium stores in the Washington DC area, of the same species that gave Steveoutlaw his whiff of toxic steam. Three of the samples yielded even more poison. Every gram contained enough palytoxin to kill 300,000 mice, or around 80 people.

    Unfortunately, Deeds has no clear message for aquarium owners. Some of the zoanthid species that he tested weren’t toxic at all, and indeed, many people claim to have handled zoanthids for years without problems. However, those that contain palytoxin can kill if even a small amount of the poison gets on the skin. And, as Steveoutlaw found, even breathing in an aerosolised version of the poison is a bad idea. The problem is that telling zoanthids apart is incredibly difficult – Deeds only did it with any degree of certainty using genetic analysis.

    And tracing the origins of these animals isn’t easy either. One of the aquarium owners who Deeds visited said that he got his zoanthids through mixed containers of corals and rock fragments, known as “fragsâ€, with no information about their origins. The animals can be accidentally introduced on unsuspecting rocks. And many aquarium owners will break the rocks up themselves and exchange them between friends.

    As Deeds wrote, “the legendary limu appears to be exacting its ancient curse once again, but this time upon unsuspecting marine home aquarists.†Owners are “often unaware of the deadly poisons they are being exposed toâ€.

    PS Venom enthusiasts know that the potency of poisons is measured using the LD-50 – the dose that will kill half a group of mice after a set time. The most venomous snake has an LD-50 of 25 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. For tetrodotoxin, the equivalent figure is 8 micrograms. For batrachotoxin, the poison from the skin of poison dart frogs, it’s 2-7 micrograms. For palytoxin, it’s 0.3 micrograms (or 300 nanograms).

    Reference: Deeds, J., Handy, S., White, K., & Reimer, J. (2011). Palytoxin Found in Palythoa sp. Zoanthids (Anthozoa, Hexacorallia) Sold in the Home Aquarium Trade PLoS ONE, 6 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018235
    Article Found Here
     
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  2. buddythelion

    buddythelion Well-Known Member

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    Gloves, goggles, and face masks people!
     
  3. 3Twinklets

    3Twinklets Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    Wow! Who would have known? I guess even with gloves and goggles it may kill my parrot.
     
  4. cdness

    cdness 2006 - Present Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    It can also be released via scrubbing rocks and acid bathing... I know I got extremely sick after breathing in the vapors of acid bathing rocks with palys on them.
     
  5. jiungerich

    jiungerich Well-Known Member

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    what do the poisonous zoas look like. if i have zoas going onto another rock can i just cut its mat free from the new rock? will it cause harm to any other corals in tank? ill wear gloves :)
     
  6. ChoxRox

    ChoxRox Well-Known Member

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    I think the problem right now is that they do not know which ones are poisonous or not-- so all should be handled with caution
     
  7. eddiecorrea

    eddiecorrea Well-Known Member

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    The chances of you getting sick by a zoa are slim to none. I wouldn't and I wont worry about it.
     
  8. CUNAReefer

    CUNAReefer Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    Back in 2007, I remember cutting some pink palys without gloves. While cutting and gluing, my hand started to feel numb. Then the numbness moved up my arm and I couldn't feel a thing. Other than the numbness, I experienced a very metalic taste. I cant remember how long it lasted, but it was a clear message too always wear gloves when cutting palys.
     
  9. dougers31

    dougers31 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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  10. Young Frankenstein

    Young Frankenstein I sniff ozone and relax. R2R Excellence Award

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    I read this before from this person posting here in R2R, I am so against to what he did. You don't like the palys or zenias etc. post on the site and there is a bunch of beginners or people that like them, and will drive to get them, there is no need to kill the coral !!! Had he gave them to someone he would not have gone throe this ordeal. thats my .02
     
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  11. Steelerfan747

    Steelerfan747 Well-Known Member R2R Excellence Award

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    wow cough I was wondering cough cough what was happening to me cough, I was beginning to........
     
  12. dwilliams87

    dwilliams87 Well-Known Member

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    Thank You for this Rev, a question I have is, If I'm just moving these around are they still dangerous or only while fragging?
     
  13. mainereefer

    mainereefer Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    yes these are dangerous anytime! if they get irritated they slime slime=toxins

    good thing there are only a couple kinds that are bad. the problem is they are the ones ppl have tons of, so the get given away or sold cheap to beginners that dont know how dangerous they really are
     
  14. Russellaqua

    Russellaqua Coral Junkie R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award

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    This is a good reminder for everyone. I think because it is only some of them that are toxic, and because they all look harmless (when was the last time you actually feared a paly?) it's easy to become complacent around them. It's easier to give something like a lionfish or long-spine urchin the respect it deserves because the danger they present is much more obvious.
     
  15. Blake11rebel

    Blake11rebel Well-Known Member

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    I would have to agree with Young Frank. They are living creatures and deserve to be respected as such reguardless of the danger. I think information is key to anyone getting into this hobby thanks for sharring Rev.
     
  16. Akwarius

    Akwarius Well-Known Member

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    Excellent article Rev. Thoroughly explains the danger, myth, and controversy surrounding the infamous palytoxin.
     
  17. WnYreefer

    WnYreefer Well-Known Member

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    Great article, good to know. Thanks
     
  18. Jay6363

    Jay6363 Well-Known Member

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    They may be slim, but something similar happened to a pt of mine. Heater malfunctioned heated up the tank, he was trying to save stuff and breathed in the vapors......

    Bought h a week stay in the ICU for the exact thing the article is talking about.... It happens. He came close to dying...
     
  19. luvmyacans

    luvmyacans ^^^ Reefer ^^^

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    I think gloves, eye protection and a mask is a little overboard. Obviously it isn't wise to inhale vapors from ANYTHING and I wouldn't go rubbing some paly snot in an open wound. Many, many, many people handle palys every day, fragging, moving, etc without issue. Be smart and you'll be fine.
     
  20. mnat

    mnat Well-Known Member

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    I would be very careful handling zoas and gloves and eye protection are very important. Every see a paly shoot toxin out of it? Goes about a foot and if you catch that in the eye you will not be happy. It has happened to several people I know and it does not feel good.
     

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