Wire-bristle brushes have the potential of causing serious harm. The wire bristles from the brush can fall off and find ways into a person’s food.
Danger of Wire-Bristle Brushes
Wire-bristle brushes are great tools for cleaning a grill before and after barbecuing. However, loose bristles have the potential to fall off the brush during cleaning. The wire bristles may end up in the grilled food. If the food and wire bristles are consumed, this can lead to injuries in the tonsils, throat, and mouth.
A new study conducted at the University of Missouri School of Medicine identified more than 1,600 emergency department visits that occurred as a result of injuries caused by wire-bristle brushes between 2002 and 2014.
Based on their findings, the researchers advise people to inspect their food very carefully after grilling or take into consideration alternative methods for cleaning a grill.
In a recent news release, co-author of this new study, David Chang, M.D., and associate professor of otolaryngology at the MU School of Medicine, offered the following caution:
“One little bristle unrecognized could get lodged in various areas of the body, whether in the throat, tonsil or neck region. If the bristle passes through those regions without lodging itself, it could get stuck further downstream in places like the esophagus, stomach or the intestine. The biggest worry is that it will lodge into those areas and get stuck in the wall of the intestine. The bristles could migrate out of the intestine and cause further internal damage.”
Dr. Chang and his team of researchers reviewed consumer injuries listed in the United States National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database. The researchers were able to review records of how many emergency department visits were caused by wire-bristle injuries between 2002 and 2014.
An estimated 1,698 injuries were reported by emergency departments during the twelve years researched. The most prevalent injuries reported were in a patient’s tonsils, throats, and oral cavities. Some injuries required surgery.
Dr. Chang said that the number of injuries found from wire-bristle brushes could be even larger than the estimated 1,698. The study did not include injuries that were treated at urgent care facilities or other outpatient settings.
Dr. Chang warned that wire-bristle brushes used in grilling is “a potential consumer safety issue.”
“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.”
Safety Tips for Grilling
Here are a few safety tips people should use when grilling.
- Use caution when cleaning grills with wire-bristle brushes — examining brushes before each use and discarding if bristles are loose.
- Inspect your grill’s cooking grates before cooking, or use alternative cleaning methods such as nylon-bristle brushes, or balls of tin foil.
- Inspect grilled food carefully after cooking to make sure bristles are not stuck to the food.
Dr. Chang adds the following information on what to do in case of injury.
“If cautionary measures fail and individuals do experience problems with swallowing or pain after eating something that has been barbecued or grilled, they should seek advice from a physician or an emergency department and let the physician know that they were just at a barbecue event or they just grilled food.”
The new study, “Epidemiology of Wire-Bristle Grill Brush Injury in the United States, 2002-2014,” was published in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.