Avoid A Trip To The ER, Check That Grille Before You Grill
July 4, 2012

Avoid A Trip To The ER, Check That Grill Before You Grill

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

When you pull out the barbecue this 4th of July holiday you may want to take a few extra minutes checking the surface of the grill for foreign objects that could pose serious risks to your health, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Health and safety experts around the country typically take it upon themselves this time of year to warn outdoor cooks of the dangers that may lurk in their BBQ grill. And the reasons are clear; in recent years, several documented cases of people winding up in the emergency room after ingesting wires that become detached from grill-cleaning brushes have turned up, said the CDC report.

The government´s health arm has dug up six cases (March 2011 - June 2012) from a single hospital system of ER visits due to wire bristle ingestion after using the outdoor grill and included them in its report, warning of the potential dangers.

The victims of these incidents ranged in age from 31 to 64, and their injuries included a puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, which caused severe pain on swallowing, and perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, requiring abdominal surgery. Despite the severity of the incidents, all six patients made full recoveries, the CDC noted.

Still, awareness among the public, manufacturers who make these brushes, and retailers who sell them, is vital to prevent an accident that, fortunately, has yet to seriously injure someone and cause death. Additionally, awareness can lead to reduction of reliance on such types of brushes for one. The CDC also urges that all persons who are using a grill to examine the grill surface carefully before cooking food.

“With the summer grilling season under way, broad awareness of the risk will help” in quickly and correctly diagnosing this injury, the CDC said. Diagnosis can be difficult because the bristles from grill-cleaning brushes are small, and can be quite difficult to see on imaging scans.

Apparently, bristles break off during cleaning, stick to the grill and then stick to food, and then end up being unintentionally ingested. The CDC said the Consumer Products Safety Commission is currently looking into which brushes are defective, and until it completes its investigation, the CDC said it cannot make appropriate recommendations on which brushes to use, and which to not use.

In the initial accident described in the report, a 50-year-old-man arrived at Rhode Island Hospital in July 2011 with abdominal pain that had begun after eating steak at a barbeque. A CT scan of his abdomen and pelvis revealed a linear object extending through the wall of an area of his small intestine into the omentum. Surgeons performed laparotomy to remove the foreign body, which turned out to be a bristle from a wire brush. The patient fully recovered and was discharged the following day.

Five more similar cases popped up over the next year, all with the same diagnosis, similar procedure and full recovery. Interviews with the patients revealed a common thread, all associated their pain with recent ingestion of grilled meat.

In an editorial note accompanying the CDC report, the editor stated that ingestion of foreign objects resulted in about 80,000 emergency visits in 2010, most occurring in children. Serious morbidity from ingestion of foreign objects occurs in less than 1 percent of the cases reported.

The numerous occurrences, as noted above, has given rise to advice from a host of sources, including from home-tips guru Heloise, who says: “After cleaning your grill with a wire brush, wipe down the grill with a wet paper towel to make sure no wire pieces are left. Also, consider alternative cleaning tools. There are nylon scrubbers and grill 'stones' made of recycled materials that you can use instead of brushes.”

It is likely that you do not want your friends and family, as well as yourself, winding up in the ER this fourth of July because of a simple overlooked issue, so take it upon yourself to make sure you have a happy and healthy holiday and examine that grill before you start grilling.

To improve monitoring of this injury mechanism, medical professionals or consumers should report these injuries to CPSC