A North Carolina woman had to go to the hospital after she accidentally swallowed a piece of a grill brush.
Christina Murrell, of High Point, noticed after a day of grilling outside with her family that she had started to feel pain in her throat, WGHP reports. An ear, nose and throat specialist determined she had a bristle from a grilling brush stuck in her throat.
"When the pain increased, I knew there was clearly an object in there," said Murrell. "He pulled it out and he said, 'Oh you're right, it's a wire.'"
Now her family is warning others of the potential hidden dangers associated with summer grilling.
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The brush, a Blue Rhino brand grill brush bought at Lowe's, includes a label warning for grillers to check the brush for loose bristles before using it, and to inspect the grill for pieces left over after the cooking is finished.
"Up until the time when Christina realized the discomfort that thought hadn't even occurred to me," said Murrell's father-in-law, Ron Barker, who added that he always thinks of it now. "I'd say use a lot of caution, and if you really want to be totally comfortable, eliminate it."
"It doesn't matter the product or what it is, just make sure you cover your bases," Murrell said. "Even though it's not as common to meet somebody that has had this experience, you do hear horror stories of it so better safe than sorry."
Barker has contacted Lowe's, and is waiting to see whether the company will send out a consumer alert or issue a recall.
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Between 2002 and 2014, researchers found 43 cases of injuries related to ingesting grill brush bristles in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which tracks injuries from around 100 emergency departments in the U.S., according to CNN.
From this data, the researchers extrapolated that there were around 130 grill brush-related injuries in the U.S. each year. Those under 18 were the most common victims of grill brush injuries, making up 40 percent of the injuries.
"Our numbers in the study are not huge, especially if you look in terms of other injuries," said the study's lead author, Dr. C.W. David Chang.
To avoid the risk of injury, Chang suggests "inspecting the grill after cleaning to make sure nothing is adhered to it." He also recommends exploring alternatives to wire bristle grill brushes, like brushes made with nylon or wire mesh.
"I think I would definitely [use one of these alternatives] given the number of incidents, at least anecdotally among physicians, to hopefully reduce the risk of injury," he said, adding that if your brush's bristles are frayed, "you should probably get it replaced."
The sharp bristles also run the risk of puncturing the digestive tract or causing an infection.
"Usually I tell people it is fine if they want to use a wire brush, but after they use it to get a cloth to wipe down the grill surface and really inspect it before they start cooking on it," said Dr. Evan Harlor, who works in the head and neck surgery department at Pennsylvania's Geisinger Medical Center.