BBQ brush bristles can lodge in throat, warns ER doctor

An Antigonish, N.S., emergency room doctor is warning people to check their food carefully when it comes off the grill, after seeing an increased number of patients with wire bristles lodged in their throats.

Small wire bristles fall off and attach to food on the grill, may need surgery to remove, says doctor

A simple barbecue brush can land you in the hospital. (CBC)

A Nova Scotia emergency room doctor is warning people to check their food carefully when it comes off the grill, after seeing an increased number of patients with wire bristles lodged in their throats.

Dr. Maureen Allen, who works in Antigonish, said the wires come from barbecue cleaning brushes that fall off and attach to food while it's cooking on the grill.

Allen said she saw four patients with the problem within one month this summer.

"So, what is that? What's going on?" she said Monday during an interview with CBC's Information Morning.

Allen estimates she's seen a 60 per cent increase in the number of cases this summer. She said her colleagues at emergency rooms in Halifax are seeing a similar increase. 

In one instance, Allen said a woman ate a hamburger and then came into the emergency room with a "foreign body sensation" in her throat.

"When we X-rayed her neck you could see probably about a 2.5-centimetre fine wire brush [bristle] lodged into her epiglottis," she said.

Allen said the bristles can do a lot of damage, even perforate the esophagus, and require surgery to remove them. She's not sure what's behind the increase in incidents. 

"I don't know if more people are using these wire brushes, or there's more people barbecuing, or we're just getting some brushes that are really not very good," said Allen. 

"I would ditch the wire brush, personally, and get one of the scouring-type of brushes." 

On its web site, Health Canada also warns about the brushes: 

"[You] should inspect your BBQ brush before each use and throw it away if you notice that the bristles are loose or stuck to the grill."

With files from the CBC's Information Morning