An outbreak of incidents related to metal grill brushes has doctors and regulators alike concerned about the safety of such items.
A new report on these items was prompted due to findings published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Between 2011 and 2012, Rhode Island Hospital had to treat six people who came in to the emergency room because a wire bristle had dislodged from a metal grill brush, was swallowed, and had gotten lodged in a person’s internal organs. An additional six similar injuries were had between 2009 and 2010 at the same hospital.
This is just the latest instance where injuries of this nature have come to the attention of the media. A United States Senator asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to review the safety of grill brushes this past May after he heard about two incidents that required surgery. The CPSC is in the process of reviewing data on 37 incidents since 2007 in the hopes that they might be able to identify either a common defect or if each of the injuries was the result of one particular product.
So just how prevalent are these circumstances? 37 incidents since 2007 might not seem like a lot, but doctors warn that instances of a person swallowing a bristle could be more common. The fact is, not everyone who has a bristle come dislodged from their grill brush is going to go to an emergency room. A consumer could pick out the bristle before consumption, and even those who swallow the bristles might not always go to an emergency room to receive treatment.
That’s a shame, as the results of swallowing a bristle can be catastrophic. Any number of organs could be damaged should the item puncture someone’s insides. One unfortunate patient had the bristle cut through their stomach and travel to her liver. Intestinal punctures are also common. Should such an injury take place, bacteria from inside that organ can escape into the bloodstream, potentially dispersing an infection throughout a person’s entire body. Plus, any surgical procedure to remove the bristle carries its own risks.
Some are quick to point out, though, that when compared to foodborne illness or other threats, the danger of being injured because of a grill brush is still quite low. A doctor from the University of Connecticut says that cancer and other risks from the consumed meat are far more dangerous. In addition, careful grill and food inspection with an eye toward identifying bristles could mitigate the danger, as could replacement of the brush after a couple years.
Until the CPSC issues a ruling on these items, consumers should simply use caution when using their grills and grill brushes.