Toxic corals suspected of poisioning family of seven


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Some zoanthids are known to produce toxins.

A family from South Australia had to be admitted to hospital and their home was quarantined after they were apparently poisoned by corals from their aquarium.

It’s thought that they ingested airborne toxins after corals were removed and scrubbed as part of a tank clean-up. 

Emergency service were called when the two adults and their five children became unwell in the early hours of the following morning.

While incidents like this are very rare, there have been reports of poisonings in the past, usually related to zoanthids, some of which are known to produce high levels of palytoxin and can cause life-threatening symptoms if people touch, inhale or ingest it.

It’s not been reported what the corals were in this case.

Professor David Suggett, of Sydney University of Technology’s Future Reefs research programme, told The Advertiser: 

“It depends what they had in their tank. I have heard of incidents of aquarists fragmenting coral, breaking it into small pieces, and similarly, they’ve been exposed to toxins but that’s anecdotal, I’ve never seen actual evidence.

He explained that when the University works with Zoanthids, researchers are very cautious indeed.

“Another factor to think about is the water quality in tanks can sometimes promote the formation of micro-algae ... that are also prolific toxin producers. So we can’t completely point the smoking gun to the corals,” he added.

Their home on Aldinga Beach will be under quarantine for several days while Country Fire Service officers carry out a clean up.

All the members of the family were reported as being in a stable condition.