Palytoxin from zoanthids is a well known and widely documented potential danger from our reef aquariums that we have tried to keep in focus many times over the years. Toxicologists have ranked palytoxin as one of the most dangerous natural poisons in the world second only to toxins originating from the ebola virus.
So as ubiquitous as zoanthids are in our reef tanks it’s actually surprising that there aren’t more reports of incidents of palytoxin poisoning. We seem to catch wind of one case of palytoxin poisoning around once per year and usually these are non-lethal cases but alas, it appears that palytoxin may have been the cause of one man’s death in Texas.
This past weekend, some hours after cleaning his saltwater aquarium Marlon Linton was rushed to a Dallas area hospital but he did not survive. A “biologist” was sent to the home to investigate and confirmed that Mr. Linton could have been exposed to Palytoxin but it is unclear how this could have happened or if that was actually the cause of death. We have to wonder if this saltwater aquarium – being in the heartland of Texas – experienced any degree of power interruption as so much of Texas has, causing the zoanthids in this tank to release Palytoxin but this is pure speculation on our part.
A facebook post by a family member of Mr. Linton appears to disagree with some of the facts mentioned in the original article but it is unclear how much is related to the palytoxin exposure. Regardless we want to remind everyone that palytoxin is very dangerous, please use sense and caution any time you are working with this group of corals, fragging zoanthids, or cleaning an aquarium with a large population of zoanthids, especially Palythoa species.