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Wire Grill Brush Dangers

Sharp bristles can get left behind after cleaning and stick to your food, posing a serious health risk.

As many of us are firing up our grills for cookouts this Fourth of July, I want to be sure that anyone who cleans their grill with a wire-bristle brush is aware of the possibility that the bristles can break off and stick to the food being cooked.

The coarse wire bristles from your grill brush can break off and get into the food you’re grilling. If you then swallow one, it can puncture parts of the digestive system like the esophagus, intestines, stomach, or liver, resulting in serious abdominal pain and cause bigger issues if the punctures are major.

Two years ago my oldest son was visiting my parents (he was 18 at the time) and woke up with excruciating abdominal pain. He's a tough cookie so when he was doubled over in pain...we knew it wasn't good. My Dad called me and let me know he was taking him to the ER and that he'd keep me posted as he found out information. Those phone calls are never easy. My mind was going a mile a a nurse...I'm thinking he's got appendicitis, gallstones, or a blockage in his intestines...and as a Mom...I'm FREAKING out. I can be honest, right?!?

Long story short...he had an x-ray as soon as he got to the ER and they noticed a metal wire on x-ray in his stomach that looked like it was protruding through his stomach. He needed to go back for emergent surgery. (When my father called me to update me with this info...I can say I was REALLY FREAKING out and couldn't seem to pack the car and the kiddos up fast enough..) We are all grateful for a happy ending to this son did great through the surgery as well as the recovery process. He had family and his (now) fiance by his side around the clock. After surgery, it was identified as a wire brush bristle from a grill brush. He remembered eating with his friends at a pulled pork bbq restaurant about a week earlier. He thought at the time he swallowed a bone but we were able to put two and two together and realized he swallowed a metal bristle that was in his pulled pork.

Why do I write about this? This is a completely preventable incident and my goal by sharing this with you, is to prevent someone else from going through what David went through.

So you ask...if a metal wire brush isn't safe...what do I use? Most of us, myself included, prior to this experience, have only used the wire bristle brush cleaner. I've done a lot of research and found the safest option is to opt for a different kind of brush that doesn’t come with wire bristles. There are many options on the market today which include brushes made with nylon bristles, that work like a Pumice stone to scrub your skin, or brushes that use mesh scrubber pads that resemble a Brillo pad. Below is a link to the top "wire free" grill cleaners.

If even after reading this you want to stick to using a wire grill brush, use it for one season and then toss it. If you keep it longer than that, the bristles are more likely to detach after repeated use. Before putting your food on, take a few minutes to inspect the grill surface for bristles (from the last time you cleaned it) so you can prevent any from sticking to the food you are about to put on.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and safe 4th of July!


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