CDC Warns of Swallowing Wire Grill-Brush Bristles
July 10, 2012 — As summer heats up, more Americans will be firing up the backyard barbecue. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning that serious internal injuries can occur when broken grill-brush bristles are accidentally embedded in food and then swallowed. At least 12 people have been seriously harmed when grill-brush bristles perforated their throat or intestines.
The reports all came from one hospital system. It is possible that these injuries are also occurring in other regions, but other hospital systems are not reporting the problem. The first six cases occurred between July 2009 and November 2010. The CDC was again notified when the same hospital system received six additional reports from May 2011 through June 2012.
The CDC has responded to the reports by attempting to increase public awareness of the problem. In this week’s edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the agency describes the case of a 50 year-old man who went to the emergency room complaining of severe abdominal pain. The man had recently eaten a steak cooked on a backyard barbecue. When doctors performed a CT scan of his abdomen, they found a metal object had punctured part of his intestine. The doctors removed the object via abdominal surgery, which produced a wire grill-brush bristle.
Other cases described in the report include people who suffered a punctured throat that occurred when they swallowed the grill brush bristle. All of the patients reported extreme pain when swallowing, but they successfully recovered after the objects were removed.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is currently collaborating with the CDC to determine whether the injuries are associated with a specific product. If one wire grill-brush is found to be defective, they may initiate a recall.
Until that time, the CDC is hoping that increased awareness of the problem will prompt manufacturers to conduct more stringent safety testing of their products before they are sold, or design safer products.
They are also hoping that people who use wire grill-brushes will examine their grill surfaces very carefully to prevent bristles from accidentally becoming embedded in food. Furthermore, physicians should be aware of the problem to help ensure rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Anyone who has been injured by ingesting a wire grill-brush bristle is encouraged to report their injury to the CPSC at http://www.saferproducts.gov.
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