I recently read an article, Aquarium Science: Palytoxin and You: How and Why to Avoid a Deadly Zoanthid Toxin, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, and have noticed quite a few hits to my website in search of information on this nuisance chemical found zoanthid corals, which are in most reef aquariums. Although the title of the article includes the wording "deadly", I have yet to hear of anyone dying from exposure to palytoxin.
I have a client in Zephyr Cove, NV that has many beautiful zoanthids. They have propagated quite a bit over the past three years and have taken over much of the rockwork. They look absolutely beautiful, but in turn, every two weeks after I service his aquarium I break out with a rash from the contact while cleaning his aquarium.
Palytoxin is the most toxic natural product known, it is estimated that the lethal dose for a human is less than five micrograms. Supplies are extremely limited as it is only found at low concentrations in the corals that do contain it, although this may change if a microbial source is found.
Although I have worn gloves, Coralife from Bayside Aquarium Supply (Marine Depot's wholesale division) while servicing aquariums, they are quite cumbersome and difficult to feel what I am touching while working. They are great to use when I receive a new case of live rock and I need to scrub off the decaying sponges and algae though.
The rash can be annoying for a couple of days after an outbreak, so I use a cortisone
cream. Okay, so I picked this product up one time when I was in Baja. But I know that it is 1%, the same as what one of my client's, a Doctor, gave me after my first exposure to the toxin.
I think that it is necessary to wear gloves in my line of work, but to be honest I haven't found the perfect pair. I have used these types of gloves,(photo off of an eBay ad) but they are a one time use and they only go up to my wrist.
It is really important to be careful while hands are in your aquarium. There are many occupants that can irritate your skin. Including sponges, gorgonians, hydroids and euphylias.