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The steel bristles from wire brushes used to clean barbecue grills are potentially deadly, say emergency room doctors who have removed the wires from children's throats.

Doctors advise people to make sure no bristles are left on the grill because the metal could end up in food and then the back of a throat, where it can perforate a major artery.

At Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, doctors have had to remove bristles from the throats of three patients in the past year.

Paolo Campisi, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Sick Kids, is calling for an industry-wide review of safety standards for barbecue brushes, the Canadian Press reported.

In the most serious case, Campisi treated a 15-year-old boy who had a wire bristle perforate his esophagus. A surgeon had to open the boy's neck to fish out the bristle, which ended up in a delicate area between the carotid artery and jugular vein.

Campisi will soon publish an article on the case in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery.

The brushes have also affected adults in Winnipeg.

"I've had two patients over the past few years that have experienced a sharp pain in their throat after eating a hamburger that had been grilled on a BBQ," said Larry Fishman, an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Fishman said he doesn't think it is common, but people should be aware of the potential and chew their food carefully.

Barbecuers should also change their brushes regularly, advised Kerry Johnson, who owns a barbecue store in Winnipeg.

"It could be the type of brush that people are using, it could be the quality of them and how old they are," said Johnson. "It's important to keep the brush new and check it out when you're cooking with it."