Bristle BBQ brushes are a common item around the family barbecue, but Canadian surgeons are sounding the alarm to warn the public of a little-known danger that they are seeing with increasing frequency. The problem is that the sharp wire bristles are coming off the brushes and lodging in people’s throats and doctors have yet to find an effective way of removing them.
The sharp wires can come off the brushes and stick to a barbecue’s grills and then transfer to food without being noticed. If the wires are swallowed they can damage the throat and the epiglottis (the cartilage that covers the windpipe), CBC News reports.
“It’s a needle in a haystack, but the haystack is your tongue,” said Dr. Ian Dempsey, an otolaryngologist in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. “It’s not an easy structure to go fishing around in, especially when it gets embedded in deeply.”
The issue came up at the annual meeting of Canadian Society of Otolaryngology (otolaryngologists are physicians trained in to treat diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat) because of the challenges posed to the surgeons. “None of us have figured out a surefire way to get rid of them, so we’d prefer just to prevent it from happening in the first place,” Dempsey said. In the city of Halifax, Dempsey says they see at least one or two cases each week.
Lisa Wadden of Dartmouth, N.S. said that she got a wire embedded in her throat and she had not been using a cheap or old brush either. Surgeons could not remove the bristle that was causing her excruciating pain. After several months of tests and two unsuccessful attempts to remove the 1.5 centimeter piece of metal, Wadden’s otolaryngologist told her to wait for scar tissue to cushion the wire and the pain.
Kevin Gallant also had swallowed a bristle wire and hadn’t realized it. He had unexplained stomach problems for about a year and a half before doctors found a wire in his small intestine and removed it and part of his intestine as well.
The surgeons speaking out about the BBQ danger hope that if they raise awareness of the issue, they can see the removal of the brushes from the marketplace. Until that happens, Dempsey suggests people discard the wire brushes and use a crumpled ball of tinfoil instead.
There are also a number of alternate products, such as brushes made with nylon or stone blocks. Another tip that could work is covering the brush with a cloth before scrubbing down the grill.
I never knew about this danger, did you? Share this safety information with your family and friends.
Here is another news piece on the dangers of metal bristle bbq brushes.
Looking for alternatives? There are a number of BBQ grill scrapers that are bristle free. Some products available include: The Cedar Scraper, FEROS Safe Scraper, Kona’s Safe/Clean Grill Brush and the Grill Grubber.