A MOTHER has warned of the dangers of cleaning out fish tanks after her family nearly died from toxic fumes released by coral.
Katie Stevenson, husband Mark, and her three girls Skyla, one, Taleisha, seven and Lacey, 11, were rushed to hospital after they were exposed to the second deadliest poison known to man.
The couple had cleaned out the tank, causing the coral to give off palytoxin.
After their temperatures soared and they began coughing, they rang 111.
Paramedics arrived in protective masks and emergency services cordoned off their home in Telford, Shropshire.
Katie, 34, says if they had gone to sleep instead of calling for help, they may not have survived.
‘My kids could have died. We could have died,’ she said. ‘I’ve not slept properly since.’
Warning other families to be aware of the hazards, she said: ‘We bought the coral and didn’t have a clue — they don’t give you any danger leaflets or anything like that.
‘You should be told about the toxins so you can know what you’re touching and how to clean it.
‘We’ve had this fish tank for 12 months and always kept the coral underwater.’
The drama began when the family returned from holiday and found their fish dead. ‘We completely emptied the tank and started scrubbing it,’ said Katie. ‘When you scrub it, it lets off toxins. The house had to be completely cordoned off by the police and fire brigade.
‘About ten minutes after cleaning the tank, I started to get a really dry cough. I said to Mark, “I have a sore throat coming” and he said the same thing.
‘We left it an hour, and I started getting really bad shivers. My temperature went up to 42C so we called 111.’
The family emergency, believed to be one of only a few recorded cases of palytoxin poisoning in the UK, led to the adults being hospitalised for a week. The three girls came home after a day.
‘It was terrifying. Paramedics who came to get me were wearing masks,’ said Katie, who is now on the mend. ‘The whole A&E was isolated. They said if we’d gone to sleep, we wouldn’t have woken.’