The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that wire barbeque grill brushes can pose serious health risks that can lead to emergency surgery.
With the grilling season upon us, said CBS News’ HealthPop, the CDC is urging emergency rooms nationwide to be aware that internal injuries may be the result of accidental ingestion of metal bristles from grill-cleaning brushes. In fact, in the July 6 issue of its journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC wrote about six cases that occurred at a Providence, Rhode Island hospital between March 2011 and June 2012 and involved patients between 31 and 64 years of age; five were men.
The injuries spanned in severity from a puncture in neck tissue that caused pain when swallowing, said CBS News, to a perforation in the gastrointestinal tract that needed emergency surgery. In one case, the CT scan of a 50-year-old man’s abdomen—he complained of pain after consuming steak served at a barbecue–revealed a “linear object” that had pierced the wall of his small intestine.
That patient required a laparotomy—a fairly large abdominal incision used in exploratory surgery—to remove the bristle, said CBS News. Five others were treated for bristles that either caused abdominal pain or severe pain when swallowing. Diagnosis was made by neck X-ray or abdominal CT scan. A wire bristle punctured one patient’s sigmoid colon, which is a part of the large intestines near the rectum; the bristle dented that patient’s bladder, said CBS News. The patients all confirmed that they had been grilling meat before the accidental ingestion, said CBS News.
“These bristles are small, and can be quite difficult to visualize on plain radiographs and CT [scans],” the CDC explained. Because of this, the CDC is warning doctors, especially emergency room, internal medicine, and radiology specialists, and calling for increased awareness of these type of injuries.
In addition to the six cases in a 16-month period, the same Rhode Island hospital team also previously reported six other cases from July 2009 through November 2010, said the LA Times. Reports of those cases appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, said CBS News.
The CDC did not have information on the grill-cleaning brushes involved and could not make safety recommendations about which brushes might reduce risks for accidental ingestion, said CBS New. The CDC did say that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reviewing the injury data to determine if it can determine a pattern of specific product defect or anything else that would lead to actions such as a consumer warning or product recall, said the LA Times.
Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told CBS’s HealthPop that “It is important to carefully inspect the grill surface for any remaining wire bristles that may have separated from the grill brush and could penetrate into the grilled food prior to grilling.” Dr Glatter recommends cleaning the grill surface before cooking with a moist cloth or paper towel instead of using wire brushes.
According to the LA Times, although the risk for this type of an accident is small, it is higher than anticipated, and the number of accidents related to grill brush bristle ingestion is growing.