Summertime Safety: Why Not to Use Wire Grill Brushes
Summer barbeques can be more dangerous than one may think. On top of sunburn risk and mosquito bites, actually grilling is a serious health hazard – cleaning the grill, that is. That idea may seem contradictory. Clean cooking surfaces are essential, after all! What matters here is how you clean your grill.
Wire brushes are a common choice to use when cleaning a grill. You can avoid hard chemicals, and they last well over-time. Well, the otolaryngology community has been aware of the fact that wire grill brushes can provide more harm than good when cleaning your grill. A small piece from the wire grill brush can easily become embedded in the food on the grill, and then lodged in the tonsil or another area in the mouth or throat. I was concerned about this problem, particularly after a couple of cases popped up, starting back in 2015. In my house, we stopped using wire grill brushes altogether.
Grill Brush Wires are Incredibly Tiny
Last year, I was called to the emergency room to see a young girl suffering complications from a piece of grill brush wire. After eating a turkey burger, she experienced pain in the right side of the throat radiating to the right ear. Blood was found in the saliva. She went to the emergency room, where the staff could not see a foreign body. Furthermore, an x-ray was initially read as unremarkable (the wires are so small, after all!), but given that the food was cooked on a grill which had been cleaned with a wire brush, a wire foreign body seemed like a likely culprit.
After further investigation and close examination, the radiologist and I agreed that a foreign body was present.
This is why it is important to mitigate this risk in any way possible – initially, her exam did not reveal anything out of the ordinary. Further deep examination and prior knowledge of this danger is what saved her. By evaluating the throat with a fiberoptic telescope, I found a wire embedded in the back of the right tonsil, which I then removed.
Nearly Imperceptible Wire in a X-ray
It was fortunate that this procedure could be accomplished in that setting, as sometimes a visit to the operating room is required.
Other options should be considered to clean grills, such as a large sturdy spatula. While it is important to clean your grill, make sure to do it in the safest way possible. Happy grilling!