Palytoxin Care and Safety

It is not possible to tell which Zoanthid corals contain Palytoxin so you should always presume Palytoxin is present and take appropriate precautions when handling corals to avoid being exposed to this toxin.

Safety precautions:

  • Do not handle coral with your bare hands instead use protective gloves and eyewear if the coral is handled. Latex gloves break easily against sharp rocks so thick rubber industrial gloves are recommended.
  • Keep general handling of corals to a minimum.
  • Always handle coral under water as the lighting can heat the coral, causing it stress and more chance of palytoxin release.
  • Bag the coral under water, once again at a distance from the lighting and seal the bag before removing from the aquarium.
  • Monitor aquarium water levels closely to make sure coral surface is completely submerged at all times.
  • Dispose of aquarium water carefully as it can contain Palytoxin.
  • Be aware that Palytoxin is heat stable – heating does not remove the toxin but it can be deactivated using bleach.
  • Be especially careful to ensure it does not make contact with any cuts, eyes, nose, or mouth.

Safety precautions:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as coughing, fever, chills, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, respiratory distress.
  • Skin symptoms:  rash (hives), itching, numbness, dermatitis.
  • Respiratory symptoms: wheezing, tight chest, shortness of breath, runny nose, fluid in the lungs.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.
  • Ocular symptoms, conjunctivitis, photophobia, blurred vision, corneal ulceration.
  • Neurological symptoms: fatigue, dizziness, speech disturbance, bitter metallic taste, tremors, tingling or numbness of extremities.
  • Muscle symptoms: pain, weakness, cramps, spasms.
  • Cardiac effects: irregular, slow, fast hear rate, cardiac muscle damage, low or high blood pressure

Severe cases report muscle breakdown, kidney failure, coma and death from cardiac or respiratory failure. There is no specific treatment of antidote for Palytoxin poisoning with medical treatment limited generally to supportive care. 

If you believe someone has been exposed:

  • Anyone who becomes ill after handling zoanthids should seek urgent medical attention by going to the nearest emergency department or calling 000.
  • If you suspect a person has been exposed to Palytoxin, contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for first aid advice and explain if it is necessary to seek immediate medical attention.
  • In an emergency always phone 000 for an ambulance.