Costa Rica Reports Suspicious Deaths From Toxic Alcohol

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Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health has confirmed that there have been 19 suspected deaths from methanol, a toxic variant of alcohol, in June and July. Fourteen of the cases are men and five are women, the Ministry said in a statement posted to its website, who died in San José (7 cases), Cartago (4 cases), Limón (3 cases), Guanacaste (2 cases) and Heredia (one case). Two other cases are pending investigation. The victims were between 32 and 72 years old. 

“It is important to emphasize that these data are preliminary as investigations continue,” the Ministry said (statement translated). 

It is unclear at this time whether or not those who died were foreign tourists, or whether any of the cases occurred at hotels or resorts. Meeting Spotlight has reached out to the Ministry of Health and the Costa Rica Tourism Board for further details. 

The Ministry of Health says that one case occurred in the week of June 2 – 8, followed by two cases the week of June 23 – 29. There were two more cases the week of June 30 to July 6, followed by eight cases the week of July 7 – 13. Finally, the week of July 14 – 20, there were six cases. 

On Friday, July 19, the Ministry seized approximately 30,000 containers of alcohol that had been tainted with methanol. The seized containers included the brands Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Star Brandy, Baron Red Brandy, Timbuka Brandy and Molotov Brandy

“The Ministry of Health continues to carry out operations throughout the national territory in order to reduce the exposure of consumers to adulterated products,” the organization said. 

The Ministry also said that the lethal amount of methanol ingested with drinks varies based on the concentration of methanol in the drink, the person’s weight, and if that person is a habitual consumer of alcohol. In general terms, a dose of 0.2 milliliters of 100 percent methanol per kilogram of the person’s weight would theoretically result in a toxic concentration of methanol, assuming 100 percent absorption, the Ministry said. 

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