With the summer barbecue season in full swing, health and safety experts are warning backyard grill masters of an unexpected danger.
The wire brushes that most home grillers use to clean the grill grates before firing up the grill can leave small bristles on the grate and those sharp metal bristles can make their way into the food being grilled.
When the wire bristles are ingested, they can injure the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, Consumer Reports recently reported.
Consumer Reports notes the results of a study published in 2016 in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. The researchers reported that between 2002 and 2014 an estimated 1,700 Americans went to an emergency room after having ingested wire bristles in grilled food. One in four of those with grill brush injuries had to be admitted to the hospital.
The attorneys are Parker Waichman have represented scores of people who have been injured by common products like grill cleaning brushes and can advise injured parties about their legal options.
Dr. C.W. David Chang, associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and a senior author of the study, notes that there were likely more grill brush injuries during that 12-year period. The study findings are based on emergency room visits and do not take into account the people who were treated at an urgent care facility or in another outpatient setting.
The study reports that most injuries from grill brush bristles were injuries to the mouth and throat. But some people swallowed a bristle hidden in grilled food and suffered a stomach or intestinal injury, according to Consumer Reports. The bristles can puncture internal organs. Some injured people have needed emergency surgery to remove the bristle.
In July 2012, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), presented six recent cases of grill brush injuries in Providence, Rhode Island. The injuries happened from August 2011 to June 2012.
The chief symptom in three of the six patients was severe pain on swallowing. In all three patients, a wire bristle from a grill-cleaning brush was found in the neck. All three were treated successfully with laryngoscopic removal of the wire bristle. The other three patients had severe abdominal pain. They were evaluated CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis. In two patients, the wire bristle was noted lodged within the omentum adjacent to a loop of small intestine. In one patient, the wire bristle was located within the sigmoid colon, indenting the bladder. Two patients underwent emergency abdominal surgery to retrieve the foreign object and repair the intestine. In one patient, the wire had not perforated the intestine and was removed via colonoscopy, according to the MMWR report.
Safely Cleaning the Grill Grate
For safe grilling, it is important to clean old food particles from the grill grate before cooking a new batch of food.
Consumer Reports suggests that home grillers who use wire grill brushes look into other methods for cleaning the grill grates. The grill’s owner’s manual should contain the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. After grilling, when the grate is still warm—not hot—the grates can be cleaned of food particles with a pumice stone or a coil-shaped brush that doesn’t have bristles. The cook can use a wad of crumpled aluminum foil to brush food particles off the grate, again, making sure the grate is cool enough not to burn the skin.
Grill masters who want to use stainless steel and brass brushes should take precautions. Before using a wire brush, check for loose bristles and wear and toss a brush that’s worn or warped. After using a wire brush, carefully check the grate for any bristles that may have come off the brush. Running a damp paper towel over the grate can pick up loose bristles. People who use as electric brush, such as the Grillbot, should replace the brush every year or after 100 uses.
Dr. Chang says that when the grill grates need occasional major cleaning, “treatment with liquid grill cleaners (in spray and foam form) can help loosen debris.” These cleaners can be paired with coarse-textured abrasive pads to get rid of really stubborn food residue.
If You Have Been Injured by a Grill Brush Bristle
If you or someone you know has ingested a grill brush bristle and has suffered a mouth, throat, or internal injury, please contact the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your legal rights. To reach the firm, fill out the online contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).