A health alert issued for the sale of products tainted with methanol has been out since July 2019.
  - Ministry of Health photo -



Published Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Eleven people died from drinking
methanol contaminated liquor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Since Monday night, 12 people have been treated at the emergency room of Mexico Hospital, San José Province, due to drinking liquor contaminated with methanol. Of these patients, seven died on Tuesday.

According to Ricardo González, Emergency room chief, the infected people are of ages between 23 to 65, all from the La Carpio community in La Urica District.

The patients were in a very delicate condition upon admission. The first patient stated that he could not see and was experiencing severe body aches, Gonzalez said.

This is the second case of people attended in an Emergency Room due to inebriation caused by contaminated liquor. Also, during the weekend, five people were treated for the same reason in the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José Province, where four died, Social Security reported.

According to González, the increase in cases of people contaminated with methanol is more dangerous during the pandemic, because some of them have to be connected to a respirator, due to the respiratory infection caused by the methanol in the organism.

The cases of intoxication and death due to drinking liquor contaminated with methanol were reported to the Ministry of Health, which continues with an investigation into the illegal sale of this type of liquor, Social Security said in its statement.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health reported an increase in cases of people hospitalized over intoxication with liquor contaminated with methanol.

Due to these cases, the authorities carried out operations to confiscate liquor that may have been contaminated in the cantons of Alajuelita, Aserrí in San José Province and La Unión in Cartago Province.

A health alert issued for the sale of products tainted with methanol has been out since July 2019 for bottles labeled: Guaro Chonete, Guaro Cuerazo, Guaro Sacheto, Guaro Gran Apache, Aguardiente Red Star, Guaro Montano, Barón Rojo Aguardiente, Timbuka Aguardiente and Molotov Aguardiente.

Since then, the sale of the products is forbidden. Also, ministry officials continue with operations to analyze liquors sold in stores to identify the sale of contaminated products.

According to the ministry, in 2019, 76 people were treated for suspected poisoning by drinking liquor with methanol. Of these, 29 people died, where 22 were men and seven were women. There were 23 Costa Ricans, 4 Nicaraguan, and two-people whose nationalities were not disclosed because they were homeless, according to the ministry.

So far, there have been no reports of foreign tourists being affected by the wave of deaths and illnesses.

The ministry reported the closure of 33 stores due to the sale of liquors banned for possible contamination with methanol. There were nine stores in Cartago, 14 in Limón, five in San José, and five in Alajuela.

More than 65,000 bottles of possibly tainted alcohol have been seized with the support of the Fiscal Control Police.

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, was originally produced by the distillation of wood, hence the name wood alcohol.

Sometimes methanol is created accidentally by bootleggers who are trying to produce ethanol, the type of alcohol usually found in beer, wine, and liquor. Sometimes methanol is added to ethanol to boost its effect.

Methanol is toxic in two ways. First, methanol can be fatal due to effects on the central nervous system, acting as a depressant in the same manner as ethanol poisoning. Second, it metabolizes to form an acid that can cause blindness in those who drink it, as well as frequent deaths.

Because of its toxic properties, methanol was frequently used as a denaturant additive for ethanol manufactured for industrial uses to prevent the liquid from being used for drinking.

Symptoms can develop almost immediately after having imbibed the liquor. Symptoms are rapid drunkenness, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, severe headache, and lack of coordination.

Specialists make the following recommendations:

- Do not drink or buy liquor of the brands mentioned above until the alert is lifted.

- The sale of these products are forbidden until the alert is lifted.

- If any person detects the sale of this product in any store, report it to the local police.

Complaints should be made by email to carolina.quesadar@misalud.go.cr or by calling the line for the ministry at 2223-0333.

A.M. Costa Rica urges readers to share this alert with their contacts.

Have you seen these brands of liquor being sold in your community? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com