With the days getting warmer and summertime fast approaching, people throughout the U.S. are enjoying long hours outdoors, enjoying al fresco meals with friends and family members. However, if you’re considering firing up your grill for the first time this season, there’s a critical (and common) error authorities say you may be making that could land you in the hospital—and it’s not a burn you’re risking if you make this mistake. Read on to discover the serious grilling safety mistake you can’t afford to make this summer.
Grills are notoriously difficult to clean, making heavy-duty wire brushes a staple in many a barbecue master’s cleaning arsenal. However, experts say that using a metal brush to clean your grill could be a serious safety risk.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just issued a warning to grillers, cautioning against using wire grill brushes, as the bristles can become embedded in food and swallowed, potentially causing serious injury or even death.
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Injuries related to the accidental ingestion of metal grill brush bristles happen more often than you might think.
According to a 2016 study published in the journal Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, based on data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), approximately 1,698 U.S. residents went to the hospital after the inadvertent consumption of metal grill brush bristles or fragments between 2002 and 2014.
NEISS data indicates that the most common locations of grill brush bristle injuries are the mouth and throat, but metal grill brush bristles can cause more serious injuries to the lower digestive tract.
A 2016 paper published in the journal The American Surgeon investigated six cases of metal grill brush bristle ingestion leading to intestinal injuries; among the patients studied, five required surgical intervention, including three individuals who underwent laparoscopic surgery to repair intestinal perforations.
According to research published in the Annals of Coloproctology in 2016, the mortality rate for intestinal perforations is approximately 30 percent, but can reach up to 70 percent among people whose injury causes diffuse peritonitis, in which an infection that started in the GI tract spreads throughout the abdominal cavity.
If you want to clean your grill thoroughly—but safely—this summer, there is hope. The CPSC recommends using either nylon grill brushes, which have softer bristles that are less likely to cause injury, or balled-up aluminum foil to clean your grill instead of metal bristle brushes.
If you do choose to use a metal bristle brush to clean your grill, make sure it’s a relatively new one, as older ones may be more likely to shed their bristles. According to the aforementioned American Surgeon study, none of the individuals who experienced intestinal perforation had replaced their grill brushes in the two years prior to their injury.