The hidden danger of grilling out

Story highlights

  • About 130 people a year in the United States go to the ER because they swallowed a wire bristle from a grill brush
  • Although grill brush injuries are uncommon, they might require surgery and cause infections
  • Experts recommend using nylon brushes or wire mesh brushes instead of brushes with wire bristles

(CNN)Last winter, a team of doctors at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware treated a 16-year-old girl who had a sharp pain in one spot of her abdomen. Although the doctors suspected she had swallowed something, they were surprised when they pulled out a wire bristle from a grill brush during surgery.

It started to make sense when the doctors thought about the girl's history. She had been on vacation with her family the week before she developed the pain. They had been barbecuing and the girl remembered that one of her relatives cleaned the grill with a brush. A bristle from the brush probably fell onto the grill and then stuck onto the hamburger the girl ate.
"This is a great example of a situation where it is not a very common occurrence, but if physicians are aware there's a potential for injury, they can explore the patient's history" to see if a grill brush bristle injury could be involved, said Dr. Matthew Di Guglielmo, a pediatrician at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children who was part of the team that treated the girl and wrote an article about her case that was published last August.
    A new study published on Wednesday gives insight into how often these injuries happen in the United States. Researchers found that, between 2002 and 2014, there were 43 cases in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a group of about 100 emergency departments in U.S. hospitals that track injuries from consumer products. Based on this number, the researchers estimated there were a total of 1,698 grill brush injuries in emergency departments nationwide from 2002 to 2014, or about 130 per year.