Latest Outbreak of Tainted Alcohol Kills 19

Costa Rica has issued a national alert
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2019 12:30 PM CDT
Tainted Alcohol Kills 19 in Costa Rica
Stock photo   (Getty Images / Mpak ART studio | Ilarion Ananiev)

Tainted alcohol has killed 19 people in Costa Rica since June. The 14 men and five women ranged in age from 32 to 72, and lived in several cities, CNN reports. The alcohol they drank contained toxic levels of methanol, and the Ministry of Health has now warned against several brands of alcohol after samples tested positive for methanol adulteration; SafeProof, a group that fights "tainted, counterfeit, and fake alcohol," has a complete list. Since methanol is "a close chemical cousin of potable alcohol" and also makes people feel intoxicated, it is "sometimes used by bootleggers to cheaply pad out liquor," as LiveScience explained in 2012.

But methanol, which is used in solvents and antifreeze, is metabolized differently than ethanol and can kill people in the same way typical alcohol poisoning does—except that it can do so after just a few ounces are ingested. The Costa Rican government has confiscated about 30,000 bottles of alcohol suspected to be tainted; vendors selling the tainted alcohol could face charges, CBS News reports. Methanol poisoning outbreaks have hit other countries in recent years as well, per the World Health Organization, which calls it "a relatively common form of mass poisoning." (Elsewhere, an end-of-day drink killed at least 150.)

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