Gastrointestinal Injury from Backyard BBQ Grills

As the summer grilling season swings into high gear, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning regarding the health risks from accidentally ingesting wire bristles from the brushes commonly used to clean BBQ grills.

As the summer grilling season swings into high gear, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning regarding the health risks from accidentally ingesting wire bristles from the brushes commonly used to clean BBQ grills.

These wire bristles can easily snap off and become mixed in with the grilled meats. The danger? If swallowed, the wire bristles could pierce throats and perforate intestines, causing potentially life-threatening injuries.

Public health experts at the CDC are recommending emergency rooms across the nation to be vigilant and monitor internal injuries potentially caused by ingesting wire brush bristles.

In an issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC highlighted six such cases that occurred in Providence, RI, between March 2011 and June 2012. The injuries ranged in severity from severe neck tissue puncture to gastrointestinal tract perforations.

One 50-year-old patient was admitted after eating a steak at a BBQ and the remaining five patients also were rushed to the ER following backyard BBQs. All six of the patients were reported to have exhibited symptoms of severe pain on swallowing or severe abdominal pain.

Since the bristles are miniscule, they are difficult to easily see on X-rays and scans. Because of this, “Awareness of this potential injury among health-are professionals is critical to facilitate timely diagnosis and treatment.”

Increased public awareness, especially by manufactures of the wire-cleaning brushes and retailers selling the products, could help to significantly minimize the exposure, decreasing the number of incidents. “Before cooking, persons should examine the grill surface carefully for the presence of bristles that might have dislodged from the grill brush and could embed in cooked food,” said the CDC report.