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Old 01/02/2018, 11:57 AM   #1
NeverAgain
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Palytoxin Nightmare

Hi everyone,
I'll first start off by saying I am not a reefkeeper. I have been in the hobby for many years handling only freshwater species and plants.
Just recently, I began a tank for African Cichlids, a species I have never had before. I did research on rocks for their tank and decided I liked the live rock look the best. Apparently many Cichlid owners use these rocks so what the heck....I go for it.
I bought 22 lbs of dried live rock (I do not know the "saltwater terms so bear with me) There was a bunch of ocean debris on it. Some green debris that looked like freshwater plants, some type of "worm" ECT. For obvious reasons I felt it best to clean the rock before placing in freshwater.
My whole family was home during this time. My husband, my 4 children and my dog and cat. They are all in the vicinity.
I place the rock in sink with a plug and fill it with hottest water I can get. My husband and I instantly inhale what we can best describe as pure salt. Our throats swell a tad, we are coughing and even giggling at our noobiness "oh man who knew the rocks contained this much salt!" Silly me.
It overwhelmed my home in both taste and smell, so we decide to open the windows. I continue to scrub the rocks in the water with a toothbrush before placing them on a towel next to me.
Shortly after, my whole family goes to bed and stay up for a bit. Within an hour, my throat is really burning, my heart is pounding and I feel strange.
Then I hear my 2 year old coughing hard and he started wheezing in his sleep. Thats when i knew something was wrong since illnesses don't strike suddenly like that.
I Googled "scrubbing live rock in hot water", since thats when the symptoms began that I had attributed to salt.imagine my surprise when I realized what palytoxin was and that I had done everything you weren't supposed to do! I immediately called a friend who lives on the coast. He reaffirmed what I read and told me to get my family out of the house now and call Poison Control. Poison control told me to take my family to the ER.
That's a whole story in itself so I will shorten it and say what our personal experiences were. My bad symptoms kicked in about 4 hours later. High fever, tremors, low blood pressure, feeling like my arms are on fire and my cheeks as well. I went from freezing, I'm not talking flu freezing. Its like swimming in a frozen lake cold. Hours later I'm sweating profusely. My lungs hurt to breathe deeply. The worst of my symptoms lasted 12 hours max. A few days later and I still dont feel completely right but life is back to normal. Just last night my hand broke out in a burning rash up to my wrist and I occasionally get chills.
As for my family, they suffered same symptoms perhaps a bit more mild and they had extreme nausea which I didn't have. We all agree the symptoms vary and tended to take on 1 severe type at a time vs all at once like the flu.
Long story short we are okay. We got rid of the rock and I will never ever have a reef tank because of this experience. I'm not saying this to down you all, it was just a bit traumatizing. I felt the need to post my story because I feel there are many nooby people in hobby who do not realize what they can be messing with. I was one of them. I also want to reiterate that no experience was the same between the 6 of us. So the information out there that it happens immediately just isn't true in our case. Also, you can smell the aerosol (tasted and smelled like u licked salt). Please enjoy ur tanks but be mindful and extremely careful always and hopefully this can reach someone who needs to hear it.
Ps. Sorry for any typos. I'm on my smartphone Lol


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Old 01/02/2018, 12:09 PM   #2
Sk8r
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It is not stuff to mess around with: ROCK is one of the most hazardous materials we work with, because of such things, and there are protocols for handling it that offer some protection (if you are a new hobbyist reading this and worrying, we have a post in the NTTH forum that tells you how to prepare rock for use). I am very glad you and your family are ok.


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Old 01/02/2018, 12:20 PM   #3
VoltzNSalt
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Dangers are very real and not to be taken lightly. Here is another ordeal similar to your own:

http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2499316


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Old 01/02/2018, 12:40 PM   #4
outy
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Always done my rock cleaning outside in cool/warm water trash cans. Not because of safety, just because of the mess.

Almost 3 decades in, and many cuts and scrapes from working with it, no issues yet.

Hope you heal up


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Old 01/02/2018, 12:41 PM   #5
NeverAgain
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Thanks. I also have a few questions for the experienced reefkeepers here. The rocks in question were dry, all different looks, but no bits of coral that I saw. So how did I get sick? From my understanding, the toxin is from a specific coral. Do they leave traces and come back to life when circumstances are right? Sorry I don't understand this but I am truly fascinated now. Mother Nature don't play!


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Old 01/02/2018, 12:48 PM   #6
devastator007
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Obviously there are dangers, as you unfortunately found out the hard way. Handling a reef tank is a fairly safe thing to do if you know what to do. Of course, there's a lot to know in order to do it right, and also those of us that know how to do it right also occasionally slip up in the moment. Palytoxin is about the worst thing in reefing, and it seems to only be an issue when liverock or certain coral are mishandled, or during fragging certain coral without PPE. Hopefully those reading that would like to start a tank aren't afraid to start, but use your experience as an example of the importance of following protocols when handling rock and coral, and for wearing gloves, and face shield when appropriate.

I'm glad your family is okay. I'm not trying to make light of your situation at all, so I hope it's not interperated that way. Since I've gotten into reefing, I have a newfound appriciation for the ocean, and for the complexity involved in how our ecosystem works and even our impact on it. Stay safe!


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Old 01/02/2018, 12:55 PM   #7
Rover88
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeverAgain View Post
Thanks. I also have a few questions for the experienced reefkeepers here. The rocks in question were dry, all different looks, but no bits of coral that I saw. So how did I get sick? From my understanding, the toxin is from a specific coral. Do they leave traces and come back to life when circumstances are right? Sorry I don't understand this but I am truly fascinated now. Mother Nature don't play!
The rock is deep and porous, and stuff can be inside you'll never see. I'm glad to hear you and your family are okay and you quickly identified the source of it.


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Old 01/02/2018, 01:36 PM   #8
Sugar Magnolia
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I moved this so more new reefers can learn from this.

Glad to hear your family is okay.


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Old 01/02/2018, 02:35 PM   #9
Jekerry
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So sorry that happened to you. Horrible experience. Not sure why someone would buy live rock and the try to remove the live stuff. Just get the bleached and cheaper rock if you don’t want the live stuff in your tank.


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Old 01/02/2018, 03:25 PM   #10
NeverAgain
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If you read my story closely, I made it clear that I have zero knowledge of anything marine related. A rock is a rock is a rock to me and I truly thought it was just a medium coral attaches too just like plants attach to my driftwood and take hold to grow. Of course I wouldn't want any marine gunk in my freshwater tank which is why I cleaned it off. I just liked the look and apparently African Cichlids love it. How was I suppose to know you can get them bleached? Lol
Anyways, mistakes were made. Important thing is my family is ok. Please don't assume everyone has some idea about this stuff. I'm confident 80% or more don't and they can just go pick it right up at their local pet store. Thats the scary part. In sure this happens far more often than we realize, and people think they just have a bug or something.


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Old 01/02/2018, 03:45 PM   #11
jayball
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FYI, the CDC has a MMR report regarding this. There can be some lingering health effects, watch for respiratory problems. Hopefully your exposure was low enough that nothing lingers.

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6431a4.htm


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Old 01/03/2018, 11:43 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Rover88 View Post
The rock is deep and porous, and stuff can be inside you'll never see. I'm glad to hear you and your family are okay and you quickly identified the source of it.
"The rock is deep and full of terrors."


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Old 01/03/2018, 02:29 PM   #13
SereneAquatic
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"The rock is deep and full of terrors."
Lol, nice.

I'm also new here, so let me see if I have this right.

I could one day buy bone dry rock like pukani from the LFS, get it home and wet... And experience palytoxin poisoning?

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Old 01/03/2018, 03:19 PM   #14
jurgenph
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeverAgain View Post
I bought 22 lbs of dried live rock (I do not know the "saltwater terms so bear with me) There was a bunch of ocean debris on it. Some green debris that looked like freshwater plants, some type of "worm" ECT. For obvious reasons I felt it best to clean the rock before placing in freshwater.
you say "dry rock", but you seem to be describing live rock.

can you please clear up if you experienced this from DRY rock, aka base rock, dry and white, no life on or in it, apart from some dried up leftovers.

or actual wet, and full of life, live rock, covered in purple coralline, algae, polyps, bacteria, inverts, etc... etc... ?


J.


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Old 01/03/2018, 03:25 PM   #15
Sk8r
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heating the rock is very dangerous under any circumstances: that is why I try to eradicate the old term 'cooking' [humorous usage] rock....no. Never any heat. nononono. In general, live rock is safe enough if kept wet, mildly warm (79 degrees) and you wash your hands scrupulously (wear gloves against cuts, etc) and do not rub your eyes. Fumes from heating are a great danger. So is water from the same situation. I kept palys back in the day and took no harm because I never cut them, heated them, drank the water, or other things you should not do. I do not encourage keeping them AT ALL unless you are expert and well-set-up. Zoas are fine. We have pix up in the stickies ^^^^^ that show you what the dangerous one looks like in life.

But the harm in marine things survives their demise in many instances: I once got nailed by a dry man-o-war tentacle I just brushed against on a beach. Ow. For days.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge, 2 firefish, 2 chromis, royal gramma basslet, starry blenny, chestnut turbo snails, bristleworms, couple of hermits.

Last edited by Sk8r; 01/03/2018 at 03:43 PM.
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Old 01/03/2018, 09:03 PM   #16
GatorKev
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Thanks for the post!


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