Barbecue Health Hazard Warning: Wire Bristle Brushes Pose Injury Dangers

Healthy Living

June 10, 2016

Whether you’re planning a family barbecue in the backyard or headed to a picnic ground for a holiday, chances are you’re going to have to give the grill a good cleaning before you begin grilling up those hamburgers and hot dogs, typically with a wire brush. A new research study just published in the Journal of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery has determined that the use of wire brushes to clean barbecue grills is causing serious injuries when loose bristles become lodged in the food being grilled.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first brought a warning of the dangers of ingesting wire bristles from barbecue cleaning tools in July 2012 when they issued a report citing cases from July 2009 through June of 2012. But the new study which was co-authored by Dr. David Chang, from the University of Missouri School of Medicine (and his co-researchers) wanted to be more detailed in their study than the one the CDC conducted. In order to get a better understanding of how frequently people were suffering serious injuries due to ingestion of wire bristles from brushes Dr. Chang and his colleague’s utilized information collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) in the United States.

Dr. Chang and his team of researchers were able to evaluate the number of hospital emergency room emergencies that were related to the ingestion or injuries that occurred due to wire brush bristles. Between 2002 and 2014 there were 1,698 ER visits that ranged from throat, tonsils, mouth or combination of injuries, some of which required serious surgery.

Dr Chang is quoted as saying, “Wire-bristle brush injuries are a potential consumer safety issue, so it is important that people, manufacturers, and health providers be aware of the problem. If doctors are unaware that this problem exists, they may not order the appropriate tests or capture the correct patient history to reach the right diagnosis.”

What You Need To Do If You Think You May Have Ingested Wire Brush Bristles

The bristles from a wire brush may be very tiny and difficult for a doctor to detect even with radiography, so it is very important to inform the doctor if you were having barbecued food that day. Though the CDC and the study co-authored by Dr. Chang are spreading awareness of the potential dangers of wire bristle ingestion not enough attention has been brought to many hospital staffers, so patients need to be sure to include this information if the ER staff doesn’t inquire.

Dr. Chang made note of the fact that the new study does not include out patient facilities or urgent care centers, so the actual number of this type of injury is likely much higher than the report indicates. So if you are seeking medical attention at one of these type facilities it is again stressed to alert the staff if you were eating barbecue that day.

How To Prevent Wire Bristle Brush Injuries

Everyone loves a good barbecued meal and today with healthier eating habits fish, chicken, and meats aren’t the only thing we barbecue. Potatoes, veggies, fruits and even deserts are being served up on the grill, so be vigilant before you begin your grilling and after.

Here a few tips:

  • Inspect the condition of your wire brush, if it appears rusty or has loose bristles it’s time to purchase a new one, don’t take chances, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • After cleaning your grill inspect the cooking surface, look between the grates before you begin your barbecuing.
  • Although barbecue masters know a wire brush is likely the most effective method of cleaning your grill there are alternative cleaning options such as scrapers and nylon brushes.
  • And finally, when you have completed your grilling carefully inspect it for loose metal bristles or shards. Make your inspection of the food in a well lighted area.

With a little vigilance there’s no reason to fear the barbecue, just keep your tools in the best possible condition and get your grill on!