Nineteen people in Costa Rica have died after consuming alcohol with toxic levels of methanol, leading the country’s National Health Ministry to issue a national alert.
Fourteen men and five women between the ages of 32 and 72 have died in several cities across the country since the beginning of June, the ministry said.
The government has confiscated about 30,000 bottles of alcohol believed to be tainted, affecting multiple brands whose samples tested positive for methanol adulteration, CNN reported.
Those brands are Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Aguardiente Estrella, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka and Molotov Aguardiente. Vendors who sell the drinks could face criminal sanctions, ABC News reported.
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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, according to SafeProof, an organization that lobbies against counterfeit alcohol.
Methanol poisoning can cause a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, headaches, and the inability to coordinate muscle movements, CNN reported. Even small amounts can be toxic.
Victims often only seek treatment after a delay, as symptoms of methanol poisoning tend to appear long after methanol has been consumed, according to the World Health Organization.
The WHO reports that methanol poisoning outbreaks are often tied to counterfeit or informally produced drinks. Methanol can also be found in solvent and antifreeze.
There have been recent outbreaks in several other countries, including India, Turkey, Norway, and the Czech Republic, resulting in hundreds of deaths and hospitalizations, ABC reported.
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