Wire Grill Brush Bristles: A Tiny Menace

Posted in Wrongful Death

With the summer grilling season in full swing, you should take a minute and inspect your grill and grill cleaning brush, if you use one, before firing it up for your next barbecue.  A small but serious (and painful) culprit has landed people across the country in emergency rooms and even emergency surgery over the past few years: tiny, metal grill brush bristles.  The needle-like bristles come dislodged from brushes used to clean grills.  Sometimes the bristles stick to the grill.  The next time food is placed on the grill the bristles end up embedded in the meat or vegetables, which is then ingested by the unsuspecting barbecue guest.

A teenager in a Seattle suburb was recently hospitalized when he became violently ill after accidentally swallowing a metal bristle from a grill cleaning brush.  The 16-year-old boy began feeling stabbing pains in his stomach after a metal bristle from a grill brush hitched a ride on food he ate and sliced into his intestine causing a potentially life-threatening blockage. See full story here.

A grandmother developed a life-threatening infection after accidentally ingesting a wire bristle from a grill brush at a family barbecue.  The sharp wire pierced her intestine causing severe abdominal pain.  She was rushed into emergency surgery to remove the wire bristle after an infection developed and her intestines shut down. See full story here.

A Lehigh Valley woman was hospitalized and needed surgery to remove an eyelash-sized wire grill brush bristle from her throat that became seared to a steak cooked on her family’s barbecue grill.  She noticed intense, stabbing pain in the back of her throat after eating a bite of steak. See full story here.

Right here in the Philadelphia area, a man presented to the hospital with severe tongue and ear pain followed by swelling of his neck, altered mental status, shrinking of his airway, and ultimately causing a lingual abscess in the man’s neck.  This was the first case report of a near fatal lingual abscess due to a bristle from a grill cleaning brush. See full story here.

After similar reports of grill brush injuries in New Jersey, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York has called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to review hospital injury data to determine whether there is a pattern of injury that would require a product recall for wire grill cleaning brushes.  He also called on the CPSC to evaluate whether the manufacturers and importers of wire grill brushes have failed to report product-safety-related information as required by law. See full story here.

Mounting reports of serious grill brush injuries led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a statement warning people of the dangers posed by the wire bristles of grill brushes.

So what can we do to help prevent these injuries?  First, we need to increase awareness of the threat posed by wire grill brush bristles.  When you show up at your next barbeque or if you’re just cooking on the grill for your family, spread the word about the dangers of dislodged wire bristles.  If someone you know develops symptoms of mouth, neck, stomach or abdominal pain after eating grilled foods, they need to know that it may be from a wire from a grill brush.

Second, each of us should inspect our own grills and grill brushes to see if there are any loose or dislodged wire bristles present.  If the wire bristles of your grill brush are damaged or coming loose, it’s time to throw it away.  You can also check for bristles on your grilling surface and wipe it down before cooking on it.  If you are a guest at a barbecue, you may want to politely warn the host and chef of the dangers associated with grill brush bristles.

If you or someone you know has been injured by ingesting a wire grill brush, DO NOT discard the faulty grill brush or return it to the store or manufacturer.  Keep it in your possession.  At Stark & Stark, we have experience with grill brush injuries.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Now when it comes to summer grilling, keep a close eye out for stray bristles, keep it clean, have fun, and as always, stay safe out there!