Wire Bristle Grill Brushes Linked To Oral Injury Risk: Report

As individuals throughout the U.S. start to prepare and clean their backyard grills for this summer season, a new report warns about a potentially serious risk of throat and mouth injuries that consumers may face from wire bristle grill brushes commonly used to clean the grate.

In a study published in the April issue of the medical journal Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, researchers warn that nearly 1,700 injuries and visits to emergency rooms have occurred due to wire bristle brushes between 2002 to 2014.

The majority wire bristle brush injuries involved damage to the mouth and throat, with some patients requiring surgery due to problems where the bristles ended up in food.

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Researchers indicate that bristles may be left behind on the barbecue grill after cleaning, potentially ending up on the food, then in the mouth and being swallowed. This may result in mouth, throat, stomach and intestinal injuries.

The study involved a review of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), other peer reviewed journals, and the SaferProducts.com consumer-reported injury database.

Among patients identified in the NEISS database as having wire bristle injuries, 53% had injuries in their throat. Among patients in the literature review, 31% had injuries in the throat from wire bristle brushes.

However, the mouth was the most frequent area injured as reported on the SaferProducts.gov database, at 38%.

The majority of patients, 70%, in the CPSC NEISS database were treated in the emergency room. Researchers say the number of cases were highest in June, July and August, warm weather months where barbecuing is most common. The highest number of injuries overall occurred during the month of July.

C.W. David, M.D., lead author of the study, said the number of injuries is most likely under-reported and is happening more widely than the new study indicates. He highlighted the importance of awareness of this type of injury among doctors in emergency rooms and urgent care centers, so they can offer appropriate tests and exams to diagnose the patient correctly.

Researchers say it is important for consumers to be careful when cleaning their barbecue grill with wire bristle brushes. They should examine the brush before using it and throw it away if the bristles are too loose. Consumers should also take care to check the grill before using it to ensure bristles aren’t left on the grill and consider using a different method of cleaning, if necessary.

“Injury from wire-bristle grill brush is uncommon but prevalent during certain seasons,” David wrote. “Otolaryngologists play an important in the diagnosis and treatment of these injuries. Awareness among consumers and product manufacturers is necessary to promote safety.”

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