At least 19 people- fourteen men and five women - have died in Costa Rica after consuming alcohol contaminated with toxic levels of methanol, the country's Ministry of Health revealed over the weekend.
The victims ranged from 32 to 72 in age and were located in San José, Cartago, Limón, Guanacaste and Heredia. Several brands including Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Star Welsh, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka and Aguardiente Molotov tested positive for contamination and more than 30,000 bottles of alcohol suspected to be tainted were confiscated. An investigation is ongoing. Costa Rica has issued a national alert about tainted alcohol. Vendors who sell the drinks could face criminal sanctions.
Adulterated liquor, or liquor that has been tampered with in some way, often contains methanol, an alcohol more toxic than ethanol, or typical drinking alcohol. Adding methanol to distilled liquor allows sellers to increase the volume of liquid and its potential potency. Methanol poisoning can cause a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, headaches, and the inability to coordinate muscle movements. Even small amounts can be toxic. Symptoms of methanol poisoning tend to appear long after methanol has been consumed. There were reported such cases n several other countries including India, Turkey, Norway and the Czech Republic, resulting in hundreds of deaths and hospitalizations.