Summer wouldn’t be complete without ribs and burgers sizzling on the barbecue grill.
But those hot-weather American staples can bring a rise in injuries from wire bristle grill brushes.
Loose bristles can fall off the brush while you’re cleaning the grill grate and end up in food. If consumed, the bristles can cause injuries in the mouth, throat and tonsils, said Dr. David Chang, an associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Missouri.
“One little bristle unrecognized could get lodged in various areas of the body, whether in the throat, tonsil or neck region,” Chang said in a university news release.
Chang previously led a study that concluded that more than 1,600 injuries from wire-bristle grill brushes were reported in U.S. emergency rooms from 2002 to 2014.
While injuries from these brushes occur throughout the year, they are more common in summer months, he said. “Physicians, consumers and product manufacturers need to be aware of the dangers of wire-bristle grill brushes to promote safety,” he added.
If the bristle passes through the mouth and throat without lodging itself, it could get stuck in the esophagus, stomach or the intestine, Chang said.
The biggest worry is that it will land in the intestine. “The bristles could migrate out of the intestine and cause further internal damage,” Chang explained.
If you use a wire-bristle grill brush, examine the cleaning tool before each use and throw it out if bristles are loose, he recommended.
Also, check your barbecue grill for bristles before cooking, and inspect grilled food carefully after cooking to make sure no bristles are stuck to the food.
Chang also suggested trying alternative grill cleaning methods, such as nylon-bristle brushes.
Someone who develops swallowing problems or pain after eating food from a barbecue should go to a doctor or an emergency department and mention having just been at a barbecue, he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on injuries caused by wire bristle grill brushes.