The recent deaths of 15 men and five women reported by the Costa Rica Ministry of Health are blamed on methanol poisoning in alcohol. The fatalities, ranging from 32 to 72 years of age, are among 41 people known to be affected by tainted alcohol.

Costa Rican Police are now being assisted in the investigation by the U.S. FBI. Alcohol-related deaths of tourists in the Dominican Republic preceded the current reports from Costa Rica. The Costa Rica Ministry of Health this week searched a Pinares de Heredia facility and seized boxes of liquor suspected of containing methanol. Authorities have also seized 30,000 bottles of alcohol from brands including Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Star Welsh, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka and Aguardiente Molotov.

Costa Rica  is home to 50,000 U.S.expatriots and annually welcomes 1.7 million American tourists for its gracious people, awesome natural beauty, and the safety of the little Central American country without army. 

Small amounts methanol are common in alcohol. However too much methanol consumption will result in dizziness, amnesia, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and kidney failure.  This week, Costa Rica issued a national alert about the deaths from consuming alcohol tainted with toxic levels of methanol. The Ministry of Health said it was carrying out operations throughout the country to lessen the exposure consumers to adulterated products.

Methanol  is found in antifreeze, fuels, paints and varnishes. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has tracked methanol poisonings involving alcohol in  Cambodia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Libya, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uganda. Each of those instances, involving 20 to 800 victims each, occurred before the Dominican and Costa Rican events.

“Some illicitly-produced drinks are made to appear legitimate through bottle design and labelling and consumers can be misled into believing they are buying a genuine brand of alcohol,” reports WHO. “Bottles may be sold in shops, markets and bars, often at a ‘bargain’ price.”

Consumers should refrain from purchasing illegal alcoholic drinks, be aware of the symptoms of methanol poisoning, and seek medical attention immediately if they become ill, according to the WHO.

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