San Jose

Contaminated Alcohol in Costa Rica Kills 19; Warning Issued

Methanol is primarily used as an alternative fuel source, a pesticide or a chemical solvent

Costa Rica's Ministry of Health issued a nationwide warning after at least 19 deaths were attributed to methanol poisoning from contaminated alcohol consumption.

The Health Ministry on Friday said the deaths occurred in June and July in the towns of San José, Cartago, Limón, Guanacaste and Heredia. The victims, aged from 32 to 72, include 14 men and five women.

The Health Ministry said it believes the toxic alcohol circulating nationwide are counterfeit products of registered brands. Because it is not possible to distinguish the counterfeit product from the real one, the ministry said people should avoid selling or consuming the brands.

Costa Rican officials seized about 30,000 containers of the Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Aguardiente Estrella, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka and Aguardiente Molotov as part of an ongoing investigation.

"The Ministry of Health continues to carry out operations throughout the national territory in order to reduce the exposure of consumers to contaminated products," the ministry said in a statement.

The deadly consequences of drinking alcohol mixed with methanol depend on the person's weight, whether that person is a habitual drinker and the methanol concentration in the drink, according to the Health Ministry.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that methanol consumption can cause a wide range of adverse health effects including headaches, seizures, kidney failure and death.

Methanol is primarily used as an alternative fuel source, a pesticide or a chemical solvent, according to the CDC.

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