10 People Hospitalized After Fish Tank Emits 'Second Deadliest' Poison


What one Steventon, England father thought was only the flu, and almost cost him his life, turned out to be the “second deadliest” poison attacking him and his entire family.

According to Fox News, last week 27-year-old Chris Matthews had been transferring rocks and other items from the family’s fish tank and into another container in order to “power clean” them.

After the initial cleaning, Matthews put the tank back together and went to bed, only for the whole family to become nauseous and sick the next morning with symptoms nearly as “bad as pneumonia.”

“We couldn’t regulate our temperature, we were struggling to breathe and coughing,” Matthews said. “We woke up the next morning feeling groggy but initially put it down to flu.”

Even after experiencing eye problems, the family shrugged it off as the seasonal bug — until their two dogs began showing symptoms.

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It was around this time Matthews knew something was wrong and decided to get help.

Upon calling the local police, the family was met with a large emergency response team, who found that coral had been the culprit.

During the process of cleaning his tank, the 27-year-old had unknowingly released palytoxin into his home by way of scrubbing a piece of coral from the tank.

Palytoxin is known to be a “potentially life-threatening toxin that can act via dermal, inhalation, and oral routes of exposure,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Do you think there should be warning labels on coral in response to this?

Though the CDC states that the toxin is much more dangerous when it is ingested, serious side effects from merely breathing in the poisonous fumes can cause a massive disruption of corneal function and even “irreversible blindness.”

A hazardous area response team, dozens of emergency response members and ambulances had surrounded the home, with crews from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue following the strict protocol from Public Health England in order to remove the toxic material from the house.

Ten people were rushed to the hospital for treatment after inhaling the toxic substance including Matthews, some of his family members and four firefighters. Everyone had gotten out of the house and received treatment just in time, according to Matthews.

“If we had spent another night in that bedroom our lives would have been in danger,” he said, who has been taking care of fish for over a decade without any problems.

However, now the pet owner is warning others of the dangers he and his family faced, and hopes that by saying something, he can help prevent this from happening to anyone else.

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“I knew about palytoxin, which can kill you if ingested, and that coral can cause things like rashes if you don’t handle it carefully,” Matthews said. “But I had no idea taking the pulsing xenia (coral) out of the water could make the toxin airborne.”

“I want to use this experience to educate people about the risks and the measures people need to take,” he added. “I’ve seen the coral described as ‘exotic’ but it is actually one of the most common around. It’s a pest coral called pulsing xenia that you grow in areas where you can’t get anything else to thrive.”

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ASU grad who loves all things reading and writing.
Becky is an ASU grad who uses her spare time to read, write and play with her dog, Tasha. Her interests include politics, religion, and all things science. Her work has been published with ASU's Normal Noise, Phoenix Sister Cities, and "Dramatica," a university-run publication in Romania.
Bachelor of Arts in English/Creative Writing
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