'Throw them out': Local man warns of dangers of BBQ brushes after bristle lodged in throat

A Carleton Place man is adding his name to the growing list of people urging grillers to throw out their wire-bristle barbecue brushes or risk being seriously injured.

Retailers continue to sell wire BBQ brushes, despite past warnings and calls to ban sales

Dan Bova says a bristle from one of his BBQ brushes ended up lodged in his throat. (Stu Mills/CBC)

The moment he swallowed a mouthful of grilled pork tenderloin last month, Dan Bova knew there was a serious problem.

"It was immediate," Bova told CBC News. "As soon as I took a bite I knew. Intense pain. I couldn't swallow."

Now, the Carleton Place man is adding his name to the growing list of people urging grillers to throw out their wire-bristle barbecue brushes or risk being seriously injured.

The 40-year-old plumbing instructor checked himself into emergency on June 3 after the bite of barbecue left him with a shooting pain in his throat.

"I couldn't breathe very well, I couldn't move my neck," he said.

Doctors at the Carleton Place & District Memorial Hospital ultimately dismissed his complaint as a likely case of strep throat.

The severe discomfort subsided for more than a month. But last weekend, it returned with a vengeance.

An X-ray revealed a wire bristle near his jaw

"The pain is just — it's out of this world. It's constant, just constant," Bova said, as he held two fingers over an area of his throat just below his jaw-line.

"This seems to help and I don't know why, but it does seem to help when I hold my throat."

Bova returned to hospital on Saturday, this time to the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus, where X-rays revealed a wire bristle lodged just below his jaw line. Doctors told him there's no easy way to remove it, although Bova is scheduled to meet with a specialist this week to learn about the range of possible remedies.

But surgeons have said a procedure to remove the barbecue bristle is very difficult, and have likened removing one of the metal fibres from the throat to taking a needle from a grapefruit without damaging any part of the fruit.

Nine similar cases reported in the last 6 years

After years of safety warnings and reports of injuries from wire-bristle brushes used to clean barbecue grills, Health Canada has begun a risk assessment that could potentially stop the sale of the brushes.

The risk assessment follows nine incident reports Health Canada has received since 2011 about different brands of barbecue brushes. 

The safety audit is expected to wrap by the end of August.

Meanwhile, this week Home Depot still lists more than a dozen wire-bristle barbecue brushes online, and a Canadian Tire store in Gatineau had a special aisle display bin generously filled with brushes on sale for $3.99.

`Use an alternative,` Bova urges

Bova has switched to using a cleaning stone for his barbecue grill as he awaits surgery on his throat.

He says low-quality brushes are partly to blame, but concedes he should have stopped using his brushes when he first heard the warnings.

Now he has a warning for others who think it can't happen to them.

"They assume that it's like one in a million, but people do win the lottery. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did," he said.

"Just throw these brushes out and use an alternative."