Grill brush bristles can be fatal, CDC warns

Grill brush bristles can be fatal, CDC warns (Image 1)

Twelve people have swallowed bristles from grill cleaning brushes in recent years, prompting the Centers for Disease Control to issue a warning.

The earliest case dates back to July of 2009.  The most recent occurred this past June.

The most recent six cases are all from an emergency room in Providence, Rhode Island.

The severity of the injuries ranged from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain on swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract requiring emergency surgery.

“I think it's an important warning,” said Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Emergency Department, “This is very rare, but it's very serious.”

Jerry Jones, an administrator with Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Life Flight program, told Nashville's News 2 he almost died from ingesting one of these bristles.

Jones said while on a cruise to the Cayman Islands about a year ago, he ate part of a hamburger at a local island restaurant and within a few bites, noticed extreme pain in the back of his throat.

“It just felt like when you choke, but you can still breathe and talk. It just felt like something was stuck in my throat,” said Jones.

Jones told Nashville's News 2 he visited the doctor's office on the cruise ship, but was not able to be diagnosed.

After a few days, the cruise line docked in Florida and Jones said he caught the first flight back to Nashville.

Immediately, Jones said he went to Vanderbilt's emergency room, where, after performing a number of tests, doctors told Jones he needed emergency surgery.

It wasn't until after the surgery that doctors figured out a bristle from a grill brush was lodged in Jones' throat.

“Luck was on my side,” said Jones, “The surgeon was able just to use suction and that's when they found out it was a wire bristle brush from a cleaning brush.”

The bristle almost nicked Jones' carotid artery, which would have likely killed him instantly.

Jones made a full recovery and told Nashville's News 2 he feels lucky to be alive.

Instances of people ingesting grill brush bristles are extremely rare, but the CDC recommends people pay extra attention to the grill surface after using a metal brush to clean it.

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